[ Book Review ] There’s Christmas in Battle School Too

A War of Gifts, an Ender Story by Orson Scott Card

I received A War of Gifts in the mail a couple days ago, just in time for the Holidays, and finished it in under an hour last night. Though this book is sometimes called the tenth novel in the Ender universe (I’m looking at you, wikipedia), it’s best viewed as a short novella.

In 126  small, wide-margin pages, it tells the story of Zeck, an abused minister’s son, Dink, later one of the eleven children who command the counteroffensive against the aliens, and Flip, a Dutch boy who is homesick for something familiar. When Dink makes an impulsive gift to Flip for Sinterklaas Day, that small act sets off a chain reaction of rebellion, kindness, resentment, and religious tension through the school.

The story will be a treat for long-time Card readers. The book is filled with Easter eggs, and fans will be making connections left and right–here is the Rat Army, there is Dink remembering an off-hand commend he made to Ender, and here are the seeds being sown for the Muslim Caliphate from the Shadow series. We see Colonel Graff as he deals with the children and get a glimpse of a pre-Christmas crisis in the Wiggins household on Earth.

While the religious and moral Message (capital M here, please) part of the novella jarred me, the story wraps up with a lovely bit of bittersweet feel-goodness. It also puts the Shadow series books solidly back on my to-read list.

I have questions now: Were Peter’s parents truly aware of how much of a psychopath their older son was? Was the harsh treatment of Peter by his mother really part of the family dynamic? Does Orson Scott Card deal less superficially with religious issues when he has the elbow room of a novel-length piece?

I want to read more Card now, and that is the perfect Christmas present.

Complementary copy received
courtesy of GoodReads and TOR.


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