Monday 15 November 2021

Izar, the Amesbury Archer: And Master Metal Smith by Michael E. Wills

shortlisted for book of the month

Young Adult / Fictional Drama
Early Bronze Age

This is the story of a young man’s life during a transitional period of history. People were embracing new technologies and ideologies as they moved from the Neolithic period into the Early Bronze period. As a young boy, Izar was a hunter and an archer, but when he falls off the edge of a cliff, his life and his destiny change.

In May of 2002, the Wessex Archaeology staff found the grave of a man who would come to be known as the Amesbury Archer, and this discovery becomes the foundation for Wills’ story.  Wills takes his readers back to the beginning of the Bronze age, where he introduces us to Izar, a young boy whose life could have been the life of the man whose remains were found in Wiltshire, England. Using the information from the Amesbury Archer’s bones and the items found with them, Willis transforms Izar’s story into a tale that brings the archer back from the grave. The result is a book that readers will not want to put down.

What worked well throughout Mr Wills’ book is how the author weaves the archaeological discoveries into a story of a plausible life of the man whose skeleton was one of the most valuable Bronze age discoveries in Great Britain.  Readers experience Izar’s life from the day he becomes a disabled young boy to him becoming a respected metal smith. Wills masterfully helps readers understand the value of Izar’s progressive mindset and his openness to new ideas, which in turn helps Izar grow as a person and helps the people of his world transition from one age to the next. The author skillfully intertwines the rewards and consequences of Izar’s choices when the archer is presented with challenges. It is through these rewards and challenges that we discover Izar’s strength and endurance. It is through his story that we see him as a revered man who was seen as a symbol of faith and hope.

Although some younger readers of young adult fiction (YA) would embrace the book, the story is a better fit for middle school children ages 8 – 12.  This story would fit very well in a class as part of an archaeology unit focused on the Early Bronze Age.  If I were teaching the unit for an 11 – 12-year-old class, the novel would be required reading for the students, whereas if I were teaching a unit for an 8–9-year-old-class, it would be a book that I would read to them. 

As I read this novel there were so many times that I had to stop to reflect on the archer’s journey. I found myself comparing the fears of the unknown experienced by the people in Izar’s life to the fears of the unknown that people have today.  I could feel Izar’s pain when he suffered loss, just as many today suffer the pain of loss.  I could also feel the wonder and excitement of the people in his life when Izar successfully masters a new technology, just as many in today’s world are awed by the new technologies of our time. This is a story that I recommend be included as part of a unit of study for middle school age students or as a book parents or guardians could read with their children. This story not only brings history to life, but his story creates an awareness of present, and inspires others to embrace visions of the future.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Cathy Smith
 e-version reviewed

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