Shadow-Town is the first book in Thornton's Vastlands series. It is an eerie, entrancing story set in a bad-dream version of Manitoba’s Carberry Hills, where the author spent much of his childhood.
In the Sandy Hills on the edge of the desert, farmers have only the memory of comfort. Dickensian Speculators threaten ruin. The Sleeping Sickness takes away whole families. At night the whistle of the coffin-train echoes. And whispers in the shadows call to an endless rest.
Sent away from their grandmother’s farm, Rose Tender and her cousin Jack meet the unpleasant Tamlin Badger-Boy, and in their the bickering, the three children leave the road and are lost in the haunted Tanglewood. Separately and together, pursued by Whisperers, they escape from the mysterious Red Man who tends the hills, from the inhuman Clatterfolk who run the trains, and from the eerie tower of glass rising in the dunes.
The children are not heroes, but as they find their way to abandoned Shadow-Town they come to understand the doom settling over the hills. And, not without cost, they determine to make some new accommodation between farmers and whispers and shadows.
The second book in the Vastlands series, City of Frost, will be published by Annick Press in 2009.
Annick Press, Canada, Fall 2008
Shortlisted for the Manitoba Book Awards McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award.
~Past Praise for Duncan Thornton~
Praise for Kalifax (Coteau Books, 1999) "Thornton has written what must surely be the quintessential Canadian fantasy for children, involving a voyage through the Northwest Passage, complete with polar bears, northern lights, icebergs and an old-time sailing ship." —Helen Norrie, Winnipeg Free Press
"A modern classic, definitely bedtime material to read aloud to your seven-year-old, and a curled-up-in-a-big-chair wonder for older kids." —Carol Clarke, The Word Weaver
"Written in the traditional style: flowing language, intense imagery, well developed characters, detailed descriptions of the crew’s encounters. Some surprising elements and humorous characters make this story a delight to read. It is rich and engaging, unlike many of the recent fantasies which clutter the bookstores. Thornton has done a wonderful job of creating a quality fantasy. This book should be in libraries anywhere there are children’s books. It is recommended for upper elementary to middle-school children and all imaginative adults. Fiction, Highly Recommended." — Carol Lynch, Children’s Literature
"Thornton's lyrical writing and gentle humour touches combine to form a rich and delightful first novel.... Kalifax is a perfect book to curl up with on a cold winter night." —Lena Coakley, Children’s Book News
"It begs to be read aloud.... The older reader is lulled along in the lilting prose, and eagerly turns the pages to be sure that Tom and company will survive the latest peril... Highly recommended." —Joan Marshall, Resource Links
"This book manages to convert the quest for the Northwest Passage into a literary fairy tale filled with rich language and images. It combines myth and magic in a rich portrayal of one piece of Canadian history. Highly Recommended. " —Betsy Fraser, cm: Canadian Review of Materials
"Thornton successfully depicts Tom’s struggle to strike out on his own, risking failure and death, as he grows from being a protected child to a mature adult striving to save the crew. This novel will appeal to readers of high fantasy." —Kathleen Bailey, Quill & Quire
Praise for Captain Jenny(Coteau Books, 2001)
"Jenny is an excellent hero - an outspoken and courageous girl much in the spirit of Pippi Longstocking and Lewis Carroll’s Alice, she regretfully abstains from a skipping rope session, as such activity would ill befit the dignity of a sea captain in view of her crew. The ten black and white illustrations by Yves Noblet have a compelling, dream-like quality (although the oarsmen unaccountably face forward!), and the book’s design is very attractive, indeed. This high-spirited, magical adventure is a rare gem of a book. Highly Recommended." —Tony Payzant, cm: Canadian Review of Materials
“BEST OF THE YEAR” list, 2002 — Resource Links
"Thornton has produced a confident and captivating sister to his first book. They are not a series, but to miss out on even one of his books would be a true shame. I hope to see Captain Jenny and the Sea of Wonders beside Kalifax on the shelf of Canadian Classics in years to come." — Jillian Bell, SPG Weekly Book Reviews
Praise for The Star-Glass(Coteau Books 2003)
"Like a Canadian version of The Lord of the Rings." — Helen Norrie, Winnipeg Free Press
"Young readers who enjoy fantasy will like the exciting adventures of the three children. Canadian readers will appreciate the Canadian feel of the Vastlands, where winter is the dominant season, and canoes and dogsleds are common modes of transportation." — Donna Gamache, Prairie Fire Review of Books
"The Star-Glass promises to be a Canadian classic. It is the kind of book you find yourself reading aloud, whether or not you have an audience. Thornton will be remembered as one of the best storytellers of our time, and his books will be loved by children young and old, for many years to come. " — Jillian Bell, SPG Weekly Book Reviews
Duncan Thornton was born at God’s Lake Narrows in northern Manitoba. Although he dropped out of school age of 13, he eventually graduated from the University of Winnipeg with the Gold Medal in Honours History. After graduate studies in English, Thornton left his thesis (on Canadian fantasy literature for children) aside in order to have time for his own writing.
His first book, Kalifax (Coteau Books 1999), described as “something between The Hobbit and the journals of the Franklin Expedition”, was launched at the 1999 Winnipeg International Writer's Festival where it became the best selling title in the Festival's history. Kalifax went on to be a finalist in 2000 for both the Governor-General’s Award and the Mr. Christie’s Book Award, as well as the Manitoba Book for Young People Award and the Manitoba Best First Book Award. In 2001 it was a finalist for the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award, and the Surrey, BC Young Reader’s Choice Award. It was followed by two other books using the same New World mythology as background: Captain Jenny (Coteau Books 2001), which was a finalist for the 2002 McNally-Robinson Book for Young People Award, and The Star-Glass (Coteau Books 2003), which won the 2004 McNally-Robinson award for Best Children’s Book (older category) and the 2004 Manitoba Book of the Year for Young People (older category.) In 2004-2005, he put his experience as both author and educator to use as Writer-in-Residence for the Winnipeg Public Library.
Duncan Thornton lives in Winnipeg with his wife, YA novelist Brenda Hasiuk, and their two young children. He writes full-time from a small, well-insulated shed in the back-yard.