Mammoth! is the third book is Dakota Chase’s Repeating History series and though these can be read as a stand-alones, I would definitely recommend that readers begin with The Eye of Ra, where Grant and Ash’s adventures traveling back in time start.
After accidentally causing a fire in Professor Ambrosius’ office where artifacts of great importance were destroyed, Grant and Ash were given a choice — face charges of arson and a possible custodial sentence, or retrieve said artifacts by returning to the point in history where they were used. This is only possible because Professor Ambrosius is THE Merlin, whose magic has already meant Grant and Ash have visited ancient Egypt and medieval Germany. As much as Grant wishes that now they will be traveling back to a time with indoor plumbing, the boys find themselves dressed in clothes made from animal fur and realize that they are now ten thousand years pre-history. There they must retrieve a hunting talisman which, as Merlin points out, is the first artifact the boys are going to have to earn, rather than steal.
As in The Eye of Ra and Hammer of the Witch, one aspect I really enjoyed about this story is Chase’s attention to historical detail. Immediately, Grant and Ash are aware that they are in a time where they could easily become prey, particularly without weapons at their disposal, but Chase does not allow her reader to forget how resourceful her protagonists can be. This is perhaps best seem when the boys find Rabbit, a young member of the Bison Clan, who has fallen and broken his leg. Ash comically reacts here in a way that reminds us of the past versus present comparison:
My only idea was to call 911, and unless I could figure out how to make a cell phone out of a couple pinecones, it wasn’t going to happen.
On the other hand, Grant is the more practical, suggesting the boys cut down branches and vines to build a sling to carry Rabbit back to the Bison Clan cave.
Chase vividly describes the people of the Bison Clan, their hierarchy, and living arrangements. Gray Wolf, Rabbit’s father, is the Bison Clan leader, who asserts his authority on more than one occasion. Snow Owl is the clan’s Shaman and the ‘villain’ of Mammoth!. He is distrustful of Grant and Ash and frequently attempts to question their now accepted positions as friends of the Bison Clan. Chase allows her reader to see these people working together as part of a community, trading one good for another, and each member with their own role, be it cooking, training, hunting, or healing.
In Hammer of the Witch, I thought Grant and Ash’s maturity was obvious because of the difficult circumstances they were dealing with. In Mammoth!, this is an issue that the boys themselves address, but I like the retrospective way that Grant thinks about this the most:
I’d never killed anything in my life. Up to recently, in fact, I would never though I could. It wasn’t in me. I wasn’t violent. I didn’t hunt or fish. I even only ordered tails in restaurants because I couldn’t stand breaking down a whole lobster. Couldn’t eat anything that looked at me.
Then I’d been sent back to medieval Germany with Ash. I was accused of witchcraft and tossed ass-end up in a dungeon. I was beaten and was facing torture and death at the stake before Ash saved me. I saw other people tortured and what was left of human beings after they’d been burned at the stake. The smell of smoke from the campfire brought back the memory of the heavy, greasy smell of burned bodies and made me shiver.
An experience like that changes a guy. I felt darker inside, jaded, as if I was a kid when I went to Germany and an adult when I came back. It made me doubt if that innocent me, the one who couldn’t break down a lobster, still existed. Could I kill?
This quote illustrates several key things. First, that the boys’ experiences in history, however traumatic, are helping them to grow as individuals and question their abilities. Second, that Chase’s first-person narration, which switches easily between Grant and Ash, creates a personal and emotional connection between the characters and the reader. I think this is something that Chase has been able to develop as the Repeating History series has progressed and though Mammoth! does not have the same sense of danger that Hammer of the Witch did, on several occasions Grant and Ash both question what would happen if they died while time-traveling — and that Merlin has no answers.
Despite the boys showing maturity in some areas, Chase does not ignore the fact that they are teenagers and this is a story aimed at young adults. Whilst before I found Ash and Grant’s bickering “humorous,” in Mammoth! there seems to be more arguing between them and it became a little frustrating, not just to me, but it is even commented upon by Gray Wolf! However, I think Chase does qualify this because previously the boys have been able to diffuse tension by kissing. Both Grant an Ash are unable to explore their relationship in Mammoth! because they are unsure how two men being together would be perceived:
I didn’t know what Rabbit’s people would think of two guys kissing, and I couldn’t chance risking our new alliance until I was sure. History taught many cultures weren’t tolerant of homosexuality. I didn’t want to end up with a stone ax in my skull because I wanted to steal a kiss in the firelight.
Though this is a sad indictment of history, Grant and Ash do manage to use historical lessons humans have learned for the positive, bringing the Bison and Deer Clans together, avoiding war. I think this is a really heart-warming part of the story and I love the way that the boys explain their reasoning without giving away that they are from the future.
Mammoth! is another great addition to Chase’s Repeating History series and I hope the wait for book four is not too long. Young adult it may be, but I am one older reader who is loving Ash and Grant’s adventures and lessons they are learning along the way!