Set in the far future, Kwaymullina imagines, from her perspective as a Palyku woman from Western Australia, what would happen in the event of an environmental cataclysm – in this book series, an event called The Reckoning. As well as causing huge societal upheavals, after The Reckoning there emerge children with special powers; for example, the protagonist, sixteen-year-old Ashala (pronounced A-shay-la) has the ability to ‘sleepwalk’ – travel by herself and with others when she is asleep. Other children can read the future, call on lightning to strike, cause the earth to open up and so forth.
After some serious accidents caused by these powers, the children have been declared illegals and are rounded up, taken to detention centres, and restrained in a way that prevents them using their powers. Some rebel children have escaped the clutches of the authorities, however, and taken refuge in the Firstwood, a beautiful forest of towering trees. Here, the children have formed a close-knit community called The Tribe, and their leader is Ashala.
One day, away from the forest, Ashala is captured by a young ‘enforcer’ by the name of Justin Connor. Ashala senses that she knows him, or has some connection with him, but cannot bring this to her consciousness. Once captured, she is taken to a detention centre not far from Firstwood and undergoes a lengthy series of grueling interrogations by the centre’s administrator, the evil Neville Rose, and Dr Miriam Grey. They use a machine that probes her memories painfully, digging for information that will reveal the location of the other children.
The novel takes place over a period of four days, with flashbacks as readers are taken inside a series of Ashala’s memories of the past. Eventually, we discover that events are not quite as they appear, and the novel ends with a violent battle to free the inmates of the detention centre. Neville Rose escapes the assault on the centre, only to re-appear in strength in the third book of the series.
Book 2 of the series (The Disappearance of Ember Crow) focusses on attempts to rescue Ember, one of The Tribe and a close friend of Ashala, while Book 3 (The Foretelling of Georgie Spider) focusses on choices that must be made to make the world a safer place for everyone. Both The Disappearance of Ember Crow and The Foretelling of Georgie Spider are narrated from two different perspectives.
While there are dark moments in the book and the children undergo some terrible experiences, the series is ultimately hopeful. Moreover, running through the series is an unexpected romance that both heightens the drama and provided moments of relief and even joy.
Detailed summaries of each book can be found in Walker Books’s Education Resource Booklet, pages 6 to 7. (Link working as at December 2018. URL: classroom.walkerbooks.com.au/home/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/The_Tribe_Education-Booklet_LR.pdf)