Cover Image: Land-Water-Sky / Ndè-Tı-Yat’a

Land-Water-Sky / Ndè-Tı-Yat’a

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Member Reviews

Set in the Northwest Territories (Canada) and drawing on indigenous legends and the authors own experience, this book is quite beautiful and dreamlike in parts. Tales of shapeshifters and sky spirits and immortals from the distant past to the near future, almost reads like short stories but all interconnected. I liked the way modern themes were included and explored.
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As a latina, the prose-poetical blend of magic and reality is a very familiar form of storytelling to me. This beautifully written epic kept my attention from start to finish.
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There’s a lot to appreciate about this debut novel. It brings the northern region of Canada and the traditional lands of the Indigenous people there to life with all its natural power and beauty. The story moves through time, weaving in the supernatural and the mythological. The close ties people and land are clear and the region is portrayed as one of immense beauty. The natural world and the supernatural are also shown as only thinly separated. Katłıà weaves in elements of traditional storytelling as well as creations of her own. A Dene author from northern Canada, Katłıà is obviously drawing from a lot of her own experience and background.

The story begins a millennia ago, the very beginnings of humankind, when an immortal, powerful being known as the Nąą́hgą hunts humankind, taking a human woman under his spell as his wife. We move forward to time to a young couple on the run from this Nąą́hgą, the woman a mysterious Sky Spirit about to give birth to her first child. That child grows up on a remote Northern alone, watching over the first people to arrive, eventually following them to the mainland where he watches their lives change dramatically with the arrival of white settlers. We move into the modern day, for a while returning to that remote island with a young archeology student who may be more than she appears. The ancient beings that have been the thread through the story appear in new forms but with familiar motives.

There is so much imagination here and I really wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, it never quite found its footing. In the end, I felt like I was reading a novel that needed to go through another draft or two. There were hints of an epic story but the thread running through to connect the characters wasn’t quite strong enough. It was a modern day myth but never fully brought out. There were too many unanswered questions for me at the end and in the final section, it seemed that the author was attempting to create a new point of view by introducing a brand new perspective that wasn’t given enough time for it to fully work for me.

Perhaps I could have forgiven a lot of this if I’d felt connected to any of the characters. Moving through time and stories meant that we never stayed long enough with any one character to really get to know them and thus the stakes never felt particularly high to me. At the same time, a lot of what we learn is from simply being told by third person narration. Over and over I wanted the narration to step back so that I could observe the characters, learn their motives through observation rather than being told what I was looking at.

I will be very curious to see what Katłıà writes next. I’d love to read more from this imaginative and creative writer but hopefully with a more focused storyline.
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I want to say right now that despite my thorough enjoyment of this book, I am probably one of the least qualified people to comment on certain aspects of it. I am not Indigenous. I do not live in the part of Canada where this book takes place. I can’t speak to any experience regarding the culture, history, or language presented in Land-Water-Sky. That’s not to say the author didn’t portray things respectfully or accurately; it’s just to say that I am not one who can definitively say so.

But I can speak to how wonderful this book is, and how much I enjoyed everything that it offered.

I’m not sure whether to call Land-Water-Sky a collection of short stories that all tie into each other, or one long story that has huge gaps in it from time to time. I’ve seen a lot of reviewers call it a collection of short stories, and I can definitely see the logic to that, but my trouble with categorizing it as such is that each story holds parts of other stories within it; you can’t skip over any of them without encountering something later that just won’t make sense without context. But at the same time, there are so many leaps on the timeline that I can see why some wouldn’t consider it a single contiguous story. For my part, it feels a lot like history itself. You can isolate parts of it and tell the general story of that time, but you can’t just isolate events or people from the context of what came before, what shaped the world and the people who live within it. Even sections of the book that feel like disconnected interludes come back around in the end, proving themselves very relevant to understanding the story as a whole. You can’t really have one part without all the others.

The story starts far back in history, centuries in the past, when fierce and greedy beasts roamed the land, intent on destroying humanity and taking the world for themselves. It would be easy to say that with the aid of the gods, humanity wins and the beasts are destroyed, but that isn’t really the case. The beasts merely lie low, biding their time.  The story takes leaps into the future, or I should say leaps into the present, when we see Deèyeh, an university student studying archaeology, eager to connect with a heritage that was stolen from her. A heritage that carries a greater burden than she could have imagined.

And believe me, I am not doing this book justice with that weak description. But to include all of the interwoven stories would involve so many spoilers, and I don’t want to ruin such a fantastic book for people.

An aspect of this book that I really enjoyed was the use of Wıı̀lıı̀deh (a dialect of Tłı̨chǫ) in the early sections. The characters speak their own language, which isn’t translated for the convenience of the reader. Considering that characters later on absolutely do speak English, I thought this was a fantastic contrast, as well as a subtle way of saying to readers, “I’m not going to hold your hand. If you want to understand, you’ll have to try for yourself.” And while I have no idea as to the literal translations of everything said, there was plenty that could be understood through context. Do I think I was mentally pronouncing the words properly? Probably not. Was I able to still learn as I went, get the gist of things, and pick up a few new phrases along the way? Absolutely yes.

The author deftly tackles the issues of colonialism and inter-generational trauma, both of which give scars that can take lifetimes to heal from. If ever. I won’t say there there are analogies drawn between the greedy violent mythological beasts and white colonizers, because frankly, I didn’t see any overt connections. But I won’t pretend that there wasn’t a degree of similarity between the two when it came to the matter of respect for the Indigenous way of life as presented in Land-Water-Sky. Whether it was apathy about helping Indigenous people prove their history on the land, or whether it was about stealing the land from its caretakers, it’s hard to not come to the conclusion that different kinds of opposition can produce the same result. Some things can’t just be ignored or treated as unimportant, without risking even greater damage.

Katłıà writes with all the weight and wonder of a myth come to life. She shows how to ancient interacts with the modern, both in terms of history and culture, and in mythical creatures that walk alongside us, whether we see them or not. There is much to love, and to learn, in Land-Water-Sky. I highly recommend it for those who enjoy myths and legends and their applications in the modern world, and for those who want to do their part in uplifting the voices of Indigenous authors. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
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Ancestral storytelling in the style of the old ways.  I could imagine an elder telling these stories of the multiple lifetimes of a family and community history and how generational scars continue to haunt the children of the future.   I did have a little trouble with my attention span and getting lost in the complicated names and in the fable like writing style.  Someone who enjoys epic fiction spanning multiple generations combined with legends, lore, mysticism and the supernatural would likely enjoy this book.    #netgalley #Land-Water-Sky/Nde-Ti-Yat'a
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Land-Water-Sky was unlike any book I’ve ever read before, and in the best possible way. It is beautifully and imaginatively written – and Katha has proven herself to be a skilled storyteller in this debut novel.

The book itself is about an island in Northern Northwest Territories and the spirits that are behind the legends. The narrative spans centuries, with ancient stories interwoven with modern tales, showing how the ancient shapeshifters still touch modern life. 

The stories seem somewhat disconnected at times, but keep reading to find out that they are not. 

I really enjoyed this book, anxiously turning pages at times, luxuriating in gorgeous, evocative writing at other times. I love how folklore and “reality” become one in this book.

This is a gem of a book and one that I will buy in paper copy just to have it on my shelf and to lend to others. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the review copy.
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Katłıà has written a really impressive book with Land-Water-Sky. It’s set in a remote territory of what’s currently known as Canada, where we travel through numerous different stories. They all feature spirits that walk among the living and there is a very prominent sense that we are gaining insights into a post-colonial and pre-colonial world that might still exist if things had happened differently. I also think Katłıà does a really remarkable of showing us the effects of colonialism on the land, on families and intergenerational traumas, and on the connections Indigenous folx have to their own traditions and futures. 

The spirits are sometimes really powerful and could read as either harmful or protective. I think the narrative does pull together in the last quarter or third, but I will admit that for the first half or so of the book, I struggled to keep track of time and space. I completely acknowledge why Katłıà arranged the book this way, but for some reason I *personally* had a hard time keeping everything straight as we went from chapter to chapter. Despite that - which I think is completely my own preference and shortcoming - this debut novel is haunting and the implicit depictions of alternate realities and Indigenous futurisms is so valuable. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this! For that reason, and because I am not from within the author’s community, I’m not docking stars from this; I know this book wasn’t written for me and I’m not well-versed enough in the oral histories and traditions of Katłıà‘s community to know whether the arrangement and portrayal of these stories is rooted in meaningful elements of culture. 

I am excited for more people to read this and am looking forward to reading other readers’ reflections! Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for this advance copy.
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The Medicine Man knows many stories of the land, water, and sky; legends that had existed from time immemorial. 

The first two stories in Land-Water-Sky bring you back to medieval times. The writing style makes you feel like you’re reading a medieval manuscript in translation. Tales like Beowulf and Beauty and the Beast come to mind. But in this case, the Dene author Katłıà took her inspiration from the legends and myths of the Dene, an indigenous group living in the northern boreal and Arctic regions of Canada. 

The stories are set around Yellowknife (Coppertown in the book) with the fictional Nàejì Island resembling Nishi Island / Old Fort Rae. The names of the characters in the book are spelled in the Weledeh-Tłįchǫ language. Very real, but also somewhat hard to read, and you’ll probably resort to just reading the first letter of the names.

One of the reasons Katłıà wrote this book is to start discussions about violence in familial relationships. This is visible in the beauty and the (shapeshifter) beast story at the start, but also in the story of Lafì set in modern times. Half of the characters are kind and good, while their counterparts are beasts in disguise (both otherworldly and human). The stories show the harshness of unequal fights: men and women fighting against and alongside otherworldly creatures. If you bring it down to the essence, it can be about any unequal conflict between humans as well.

I liked the first two stories the most because of the writing style. The more wordy, medieval-folk-tale-like writing style Katłıà used helped the immersion. This is where her strength lies. I was less fond of the writing style in the other stories. Then, after a forgettable intermezzo introducing Louie and the ghost on the road, the longer story of Deèyeh followed to link the past to the present, explaining it all, except for what I wanted to know about her past. 

It feels like Katłıà missed a chance here. If she had continued that story, instead of switching to Lafì to tell the other side of the story, Land-Water-Sky would have been a better book. I wanted to read more about Deèyeh and her friend. It would have been so nice if the author had finished the book from their point of view.

To conclude: after a mesmerizing start, Land-Water-Sky almost ended up an unexpected gem if not for the second part of the book. Still, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading the stories, finishing the book in one sitting. The setting, the Northwest Territories in Canada, is also very original. Do pick up this book if you like stories based on mythology and legends from a culture many of us don’t know much about. These stories certainly make me want to visit the northern part of Canada as they show the beauty of nature.
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There is a lot of promise in this story, and there were scenes that I found imaginative.  Katłıà's second novel is likely to intrigue me more than this debut novel does, though.

Some of the writing here strikes me as trending toward cliché, for instance, on the first page we get the phrases: "broad shoulders"..."impressive jawline"..."chiseled face." 

There are long sections of the novel written in narrative summary, and these sections have, to my thinking, a generic flatness: "It didn't take long for Deèyeh to find her calling, Her aptitude pointed her in the direction of archeology, a field she instinctively knew she would do well in..." and so on. 

First novels need to be written. They're just the beginning of the writer's journey. I can't help but think that this author will find her voice in a coming novel, given the level of passion and commitment and community support that she expresses in her acknowledgments.
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This is the story of a magical island in the Northwest Territories of Canada, and the eternal fight between the beast-like shapeshifter that inhabits it, and the good spirits that protect it; those spirits of Land, Water and Sky. It is divided in several chapters that takes us from immemorial times to date, and though the seem like interconnected short stories, in the end the come together as a whole. 

I fell in love with this novel from the first pages. The depiction of the old legends during the time before the arrival of the white settlers in Canada was enchanting. It feel like a masterpiece to me. But, I started to feel less engaged with the story as we traveled to time. Maybe it is because the main characters were teenagers, with their normal worries; or maybe because they were not fully developed. Or maybe I just love old tales and I felt like the newer chapters lack by comparison. Overall, it is a very interesting story and a beautiful novel.
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Land-Water-Sky/Ndè-Tı-Yat’a is the debut novel from Dene author Katłįà, and as she writes in her Acknowledgments at the end of this book, her inspiration was to honour her people's tradition of storytelling – suppressed for too long – by adding her voice to that long tradition “with honesty and meaning”. Set in the Northwest Territories – and covering the events in that area from “Time Immemorial” through to the year 2030 – Katłįà focusses her story on legendary characters, both good and evil, and their interactions with both the first peoples of the land and those who came later. In the tradition of Cherie Dimaline and Eden Robinson, Katłįà imagines a world in which myths from Indigenous storytelling walk among modern humans, and often, the results are hair-raising. I wouldn't be being honest if I didn't note that the writing can be unpolished here (both the small and the large; in the sentences and in the overall structure), but I was always interested to know what would happen next and open to learning whatever Katłįà wanted to share with her readers .Mahsi cho for that learning.
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