March is Epilepsy Awareness month in Canada--so it was an ideal time in 2014 to release Cathi Shaw's first novel, Five Corners (Ink Smith $16.97), Book One in her projected series called The Marked Ones. It's the story of three sisters with different gifts--one of whom, Thia, suffers from epilepsy but her seizures result in visions that help guide them out of danger. The sisters have grown up in a sleepy village untouched by distant wars and political conflicts, until a dead child is found; a child that bears the same strange birthmark that all three sisters possess. The girls are soon forced to flee from their home and unravel the mysteries of their origins.

In December of the same year Shaw released Book Two, The Refuge (Ink Smith 2014) in which Thia, Kiara and Mina agree to meet in a newly created safe haven called The Refuge. As a precaution they take different paths to their destination, only to find that those paths force them even farther away from one another. They are once again left to wonder if there is anyone they can trust.

Journey to the Rift (Ink Smith Publishing 2016) is the first volume of a prequel to Cathi Shaw's young adult fantasy series, The Marked Ones. For years her heroine Brijit Carnesîr was looking forward to her life as a member of the Coimirceoirí, upon her graduation from The Academy, and possibly going to Séreméla to work with the Elders, but instead, as the Academy Apprentice of her year, she is paired with a grumpy male apprentice from Stone Mountain, Weylon Forborrow. Instead of being taken to Séreméla, she and Weylon are sent to The Rift, "a dead land tainted with evil." She is given the task of helping the Princess in birthing the long-awaited Queen of the Elders. There is talk of an old and forgotten Prophecy, Weylon is attacked by a creature from the Rift and her grandmother is killed, after revealing a secret that rocks everything Brijit knows about her past. Brijit faith in her belief system is severely shaken. Meanwhile the future of Séreméla and all of Five Corners is in jeopardy.

Cathi Shaw has also co-authored Surviving Logan (Rocky Mountain Books 2016), the survival story of North Vancouver firefighter and veteran climber Erik Bjarnason's rescue after he and two others were stuck in a frozen wasteland atop Mount Logan, the second-highest peak in North America, during an extratropical cyclone in 2005. Hypothermia, severe frostbite, and three feet of new snow prevented a retreat from the mountain. Through the combined efforts of North Shore Rescue, Alaskan Air Guard, Denali National Park staff and the Canadian Park Service, the three experienced climbers were eventually airlifted off the mountain by a Lama high-altitude aircraft. After losing all of his fingers, and one thumb, it didn't seem feasible that Bjarnason could continue his career as a firefighter and mountaineer, but he re-trained and re-qualified as a firefighter. Just thirteen months after his rescue from Mount Logan, he climbed to the summit of Europe's highest peak, Mount Elbrus, in Russia.

Born on January 3, 1969 in North Vancouver, Cathi Shaw of Summerland teaches rhetoric and professional writing in the Department of Communications at Okanagan College and is the co-author of the textbook Writing Today.

REVIEW (2017) by Pearlann reichwein: Surviving Logan by Erik Bjarnason and Cathi Shaw (Rocky Mountain Books $28)

In may of 2005, a team of Canadian mountaineers became trapped by an extratropical cyclone on Mt. Logan (5959 m), Canada's highest peak.
Now fans of suspense and action in mountaineering literature need look no further than Surviving Logan for a gripping read.

This memoir is co-authored by Cathi Shaw and her cousin and climber Erik Bjarnason, a career firefighter in the North Vancouver City Fire Department and a volunteer member of the North Shore Rescue (NSR).

It describes Bjarnason's recovery from a disfiguring disability caused by severe frostbite.

In this multi-faceted book, Cathi Shaw's foreword also describes Erik Bjarnason's Icelandic origins.

Oddly, she reports having "strange dreams of the cold and the sound of howling winds"; just as her cousin was undergoing his near-death experience.

*

The expedition for Mt. Logan was made up of a crack team of experienced NSR volunteers and elite mountaineers from Vancouver.

Mt. Logan, in contrast to North Shore mountains, is wild and remote, in the Yukon's St. Elias Range, some 175 km north of the border with B.C.

Its first recorded ascent was in 1925. Today it remains without airborne rescue service at high elevation in Kluane National Park. Mountaineers rely on themselves, but this has a double meaning.

Surving Logan recounts how and why three climbers had to cling to Prospector Col for sheer survival when besieged by cyclone-force winds of 140 km/h.

Bjarnason literally freezes to a rock. But he survives thanks to unexpected and timely intervention from search-and-rescue (SAR) personnel involving Vancouver NSR, Alaska Air Guard, Denali National Park, Parks Canada, and the RCMP.

Along the way Surviving Logan captures the beauty and brilliance of glaciers and high altitudes as the team skis up the King Trench.

We get inside Bjarnason's mind in the opening half of the book as he reflects on his children and family in ways not often found in high-altitude thrillers. He atones for past mistakes and hopes they know he loves them and will remember him, a sentiment expressed near death and again in survival.
Bjarnason fights his way back against the storm, the mountain, and his own sense of self, but there's also a tale of sexist and discriminatory institutions as well as bullying.

Bjarnason also speaks to the caring of his fellow climbers, an admirable trait infrequent in hypermasculine climbing stories.

This unforgettable high-altitude mountain adventure serves as a shout-out to the dedicated work of North Shore Rescue volunteers and many first responders.
*
Later, in despair, Erik Bjarnason is confined to hospitals and a burn unit during multiple surgeries to rebuild his hands.

Hope returns with renewed outings to Mt. Seymour and his determination to climb again.

Meanwhile conventional masculinity is persistent and hampers his own beliefs about manhood and disability.

Bjarnason trains tirelessly to prove himself to the fire department and, in doing so, confronts obstacles often faced by women-physical adaptations to operating equipment, jeers about his inferior body, and responsibilities as a single parent on the job. Ultimately, his return to active service as a firefighter is limited due to his reconstructed hands.

His union and a few good men help him win the day down at the fire hall.
In the background, his insightful Icelandic-Canadian mother and relatives help him push forward, to climb again and to resume a new normal.
Only a year after his injuries, he climbs Mt. Elbrus, Russia, on Canada Day 2006, with quiet and caring support from his NSR rope mates.

9781771601924

Historian PearlAnn Reichwein, Ph.D., teaches at the University of Alberta.

BOOKS:

Writing Today. Pearson Canada, 2013. Co-author

Five Corners: Book 1 of the Marked Ones, Ink Smith Publishing, 2014 1939156246

The Refuge Book 2 of the Marked Ones, (Ink Smith 2014)

Surviving Logan (Rocky Mountain Books 2016) $28.00, 9781771601924. Co-author.

Journey to the Rift (Ink Smith Publishing 2016)

[BCBW 2016]