Oracle of Senders #1: Shade – Mere Joyce

Do you see dead people?

Do you want to attend summer camp in France?

Even though it’s run by a mysterious organisation?

Then Camp Wanagi is the place for you!

Cal’s ability to see spirits initially got him sent to therapy. Now the Oracle of Senders has invited him to attend a ten week summer camp in order to learn more about his abilities. Cal is looking forward to finally meeting other people like him, although he’s not as excited as some of the other campers about being able to see spirits.

My favourite characters were Meander, the reader of the camp (I know, I had to love the reader!) and Dylan, who stole my heart when he shared his cheeseburgers. Without knowing how long it will be before I read the sequel and with lots of names and abilities to remember, I made myself a cheat sheet for future reference. I’ve included information you learn about characters throughout the book so only read this spoilery bit if you’re absolutely sure.

Shade (first year) Campers

Cal, our main character, sees people who were murdered. He lives with his parents and little sister in Ontario, Canada. He plays violin, loves classical music and doesn’t excel at small talk. His camp mentor is Daniel.

Dylan sees the ghosts of dogs and wants to be a vet. He’s from Virginia, USA. His parents live in separate houses but he and his two older sisters visit both. Dylan is athletic and runs twice a day.

Mim sees heartbroken ghosts. She’s an only child from Guatemala and learned English prior to attending camp; despite attendees coming from across the globe the only language spoken at camp is English. She has black hair with pink streaks and likes to crochet. Her camp mentor is Lani.

Kornelía can sense if a house is haunted and can even tell you which rooms are haunted. Although she cannot see spirits with her eyes she can sketch them. She has six siblings, she’s from Iceland and her parents didn’t want her to attend Camp Wanagi. She has a tendency to hide behind her hair. She learns to read people’s minds.

Meander brings out spirits’ emotions and can be harmed by them, as evidenced by a scar on his jawline. He’s an avid reader from England who lives with his mother. He has a 20 year old half brother who no longer lives at home. Meander didn’t want to come to camp. His camp mentor is Ada.

Sefa sees elderly spirits (70 is the youngest he’s seen). Sefa is Samoan and has been raised by his grandparents. His mother was born in Thailand and died a year after he was born and his father isn’t around much. Sefa works out and is muscular.

Naasir knows if a dying person is likely to remain as a spirit or not after death and has a connection with insects.

Sabeena sees children who died as a result of illness.

Lu sees auras and knows when spirits attach to the living. She has a slight lisp.

Reed sees people who have drowned. Well, one person who has drowned. He’s from Brazil but his parents, who made him attend camp, are Scandinavian. Reed hates music.

Kids from other Sectors

Tomas has spirits overtake him and use his body to give themselves power.

Alex is one of Shade’s sector guides.

Robbie is one of Shade’s sector guides. He has a mohawk and sees anyone born in the 1800’s.

Daniel, Cal’s mentor, is from Argentina. He sees women who died in childbirth and can also see the imprint on the mother from their baby.

Camp Instructors

Mr. Olenev teaches Basics of Gadgetry and has a Russian accent.

Mrs. Buxley teaches Basics of Paranormality, which is the only compulsory class for Shades.

Mrs. Lind is an expert on communication techniques but is not one of Cal’s instructors during his first year. She teaches a spirit meditation course for older campers.

Miss Kappel teaches Introduction to Imprinting.

Mr. Bujak teaches Emotional Entities. While he’s unable to communicate with spirits himself he can solidify spirits he comes into contact with so others can see them as clearly as he does.

I loved that neither the ghosts nor the camp participants were one size fits all. Each of the campers experience spirits in different ways and it’s clear they will often need to combine their talents in order to solve problems. I adored the awkward blushing between two of the boys and am hopeful that this will develop into a sweet first love.

My nerd’o’meter needed to know more about the classes the campers attended than what I learned in this book. The couple of classes we attended with Cal didn’t quench my thirst so I’m hoping for more details in future books.

There appeared to be very minimal adult supervision at this camp. Most of the people mentioned are teenagers. It made no sense to me that after the ten weeks at camp all of these kids were sent on their merry way until next summer with no indication that there’d be any support or guidance provided to them in the meantime. The mysterious Oracle of Senders also remain a mystery to me; I don’t trust them but haven’t found any evidence to back up my gut feeling. Yet.

While I enjoyed this book some of the writing didn’t ring true for me. I wondered what 14 year old boy would be impressed by another boy’s penmanship and whether any kid these days would describe something as coming “into focus like a photo developing”. That reference in particular seemed more appropriate for an oldie like myself.

As Shade is the first book in a series there was the expected introduction to characters and world building. While there was some action in this book I felt there was a big build up followed by a quick and fairly simple resolution. I’m expecting the action will really kick off in the sequel and keep building throughout the series. I anticipate at least four books in this series, one for each year at the camp.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, 7Sisters Publishing and Weapenry Co-Op for the opportunity to read this book. I’m ready to read Revenant now!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Fourteen-year-old Callum Silver sees dead people. It’s not a gift. His family thinks he’s crazy. Sometimes he thinks he’s crazy. He has no friends. He’s forced to live his life surrounded by nothing but the searing pain, sickening smells and desperate moans that accompany the murdered ghosts who seek him out.

When he’s offered a place at Camp Wanagi, the ten weeks in the French countryside isn’t a vacation, it’s a lifeline. A way to meet others like himself and prove his ability can offer more than years of loneliness and expensive therapy bills.

Run by a mysterious group known as the Oracle of Senders, Camp Wanagi brings together teens from around the globe who all possess the unique ability to see the dead. While Cal is relieved to find others like him, he learns quickly that not everybody experiences the spirits as he does. Some of the campers revere their abilities and don’t understand his hesitation, while others – like quiet bookworm Meander Rhoades – have good reason for wishing they could get rid of their ‘gifts’.

While researching their final project, Cal and Meander find an unmarked grave which reveals aspects of their abilities neither knew existed, forcing Cal to decide if the torture of seeing ghosts is worthwhile and, more importantly, if being a part of the Oracle of Senders is necessary, dangerous … or both.

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