The Search for Tzanata
Booklocker.com, Inc. (2020)
Reviewed by Megan Weiss for Reader Views (02/2021)
“The Search for Tzanata” is Wendy Gillissen’s much anticipated sequel to her award-winning book, “Curse of the Taheira.” Opening seven years after Yldich’s sudden disappearance, he returns home. The welcome party is not all filled with good fortune, however. Yldich, the Harrar of the House of the Deer, has come back because of a dream his grandson foretells of impending danger. Together with his son-in-law, Rom, and some of Rom’s friends, Yldich goes on a journey to find the long-lost lands of Tzanata. The dream Yldich’s grandson experienced showed a large force of Tzanatzi peoples boarding ships bearing toward the Einache homelands in the North, and it seems as if they are coming to claim the lands as their own once more. Rom, of Tzanatzi heritage himself, uncovers yet another disturbing truth: the few remaining Tzanatzi are disappearing one-by-one. In order to determine what the stakes hold for the future of the Einache, Yldich and Rom will need to dig deep within their own magic to traverse the coming storms. Rom, in particular, will need to come to terms with his Tzanatzi heritage and find pride in his identity in order to keep his family safe.
“The Search for Tzanata” is not only an exciting, fantastical spiritual adventure, but it also provides commentary on the dangers of xenophobia. The fears and prejudices that many people have toward the Tzanatzi were reminiscent in my mind of things I have heard and read about Latino immigrants crossing the Southern border of the United States. It is also evident in “The Search for Tzanata” that there are parallels to be drawn between the Einache and Native Americans. These are people that are labelled instantly based on the color of their skin, their accents, and ways of speech, and of their heritage in general. The Tzanatzi are clearly “undesirable” to most of the population in Gillissen’s book, merely because they exist. They are thought of as inferior, less than human, dirty, and looked down upon.
In particular, I drew comparisons between the disappearances of Tzanatzi people from the streets of the South and the detainment of undocumented immigrants by ICE. In “The Search for Tzanata” the disappearing Tzanatzi are men, women, and children of all ages. They are taken to the home of a high-ranking official to be experimented on and eventually executed or imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. Regardless of how they are detained, what they all have in common is that they never come back out alive. In my mind, this is reminiscent of the recent crisis of all the children who were separated from their parents, taken away and locked inside high-profile, high-security facilities where they are kept under strict lock-and-key. For hundreds of these children, their fates are still unknown as the search for their parents continues. For many of these families, reunification may be impossible.
“The Search for Tzanata” is a beautifully woven narrative that, though part of a series, can easily be read as a standalone. There are some references to base events and characters from the first book, but I was able to understand the sequel perfectly well after having read a synopsis of the first book. The characters born by Gillissen are experiencing internal struggles that are easy to identify with, and therefore it is easy to connect with them, making their growth and character arcs feel more tangible. “The Search for Tzanata” is recommended especially for epic fantasy lovers, but readers who enjoy stories with magic, spiritual growth, and some subtle allegorical context would also likely find it to be a fantastic read.