The Orenda

Joseph Boyden

The Orenda

A visceral portrait of life at a crossroads, The Orenda opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation's great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family and yet they are never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter and sees the girl possesses powerful magic that will be useful to him on the troubled road ahead. Bird's people have battled the Iroquois for as long as he can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous threat from afar.

Christophe, a charismatic Jesuit missionary, has found his calling amongst the Huron and devotes himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. An emissary from distant lands, he brings much more than his faith to the new world.

As these three souls dance each other through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars and a nation emerges from worlds in flux.

The Orenda won Canada Reads 2014. It was defended by Wab Kinew.


We had the magic, the orenda, before the crows came. We'd never questioned this before their claws first grasped our branches and their beaks first pecked our earth.

Most of us will admit we were taken aback by how quickly the crows adapted. When you fall asleep laughing in the evening, its difficult to awake crying in the sun. But this isn't about sadness, or pity, or blame. We are all party to our own wants as well as to our own shortcomings.

From The Orenda by Joseph Boyden ©2013. Published by Hamish Hamilton Canada.