The Marrow Thieves

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The Marrow Thieves
The Marrow Thieves.jpg
First edition
AuthorCherie Dimaline
PublisherCormorant Books Incorporated[1]
Publication date
September 1, 2017[2]
Media type
Followed by

The Marrow Thieves is a young adult novel by Métis Canadian writer Cherie Dimaline, published on September 1, 2017 by Cormorant Books through its Dancing Cat Books imprint.[3]


The story is set in a dystopian future in which most people have lost the ability to dream, with catastrophic psychological results. Indigenous people, who can still dream, are hunted for their marrow to create a serum to treat others. Frenchie, the protagonist who lost his mother only recently and whose father has left, is with his brother Mitch in their hideout—a treehouse, when Truancy agents, whom he and Mitch have dubbed "The Recruiters", arrive to take them away. Mitch leads them away but is taken, giving Frenchie time to escape. Along the way north to safety, he falls in with a group led by an older man, Miigwans. After meeting another pair of Indigenous people, Travis and Linc, they are betrayed and their youngest, RiRi, is killed. [4]


Working with Indigenous youth inspired Dimaline to write a novel in which those youth could envision themselves as protagonists, as people with a future. She chose a teenage boy as the narrator because of the emotional intensity she could envision the character feeling and expressing in his actions.[5] She wanted to reach both Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth, at an age when they could understand these themes.[6]

Dimaline treats the difficult topic of genocide as she wanted readers to know that such events happened to Indigenous people in the past. Dimaline said that she wants readers to come away saying “I would never let that happen again.”[7] The author incorporates issues of climate disaster and political turmoil into the novel,[8] which takes place approximately 40 years into the future.[9] Dimaline has also said that she wrote the book in order to let people know that everyone needs to respect different people’s stories.[6]

“Cherie (pronounced like the French word for “dear”) Dimaline grew up in the Georgian Bay Métis community, an Indigenous settlement near Penetanguishene, Ontario.”[10]

The marrow thieves touch on a fictional universe, North American indigenous people are the only ones who are able to dream. Their bone marrow holds the cure. [11]

“French joins a group of Native Americans and they travel constantly north in the hope of avoiding the government that is systematically killing them”[12] “Taking the marrow unwilling means death”[13]


Critical response[edit]

Critical reception for The Marrow Thieves has been positive and the book has received praise from outlets such as Kirkus Reviews, who said "Though the presence of the women in the story is downplayed, Miigwans is a true hero; in him Dimaline creates a character of tremendous emotional depth and tenderness, connecting readers with the complexity and compassion of Indigenous people."[14] For Quill & Quire, Jessica Rose wrote that Dimaline's book "thrusts readers into the complex lives of rich and nuanced characters forced to navigate a world that too closely resembles our own."[15] In The Globe and Mail, Shannon Ozirny wrote that "Dimaline takes one of the most well-known tropes in YA – the dystopia – and uses it to draw explicit parallels between the imagined horrors of a fictional future and the true historical horrors of colonialism and residential schools" and called the book "beautifully written as it is shocking and painful."[16]

A review on Quill & Quire said "Though the novel tackles some heavy subject matter, The Marrow Thieves feels lighter as a result of Dimaline’s graceful, almost fragile, prose," also saying: "[Dimaline] provid[es] a beautiful undercurrent to a world that seems to have been damaged beyond repair. The book’s coming-of-age narrative, most notably Frenchie’s budding romance with rebellious and gutsy Rose, adds elements of tenderness and hope."[17]

Jully Black of Canada Reads 2018 praised and appreciated the author’s exploration into the theme of chosen family, where the characters have come together without blood ties and created their own pieced-together family.[18]


The novel won the Governor General's Award for English-language children's literature at the 2017 Governor General's Awards,[19] the 2018 Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature,[20] the 2018 Sunburst Award for young adult fiction,[21] and the 2017 Kirkus Prize in the young adult literature category.[22] It was one of the books competing in CBC's 2018 Canada Reads competition,[23] listed in The Globe and Mail's 100 best books of 2017[24] and was a nominee for the 2018 White Pine Award.[25] Pilleurs de rêves, a French translation of the novel by Madeleine Stratford, was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award for English to French translation at the 2019 Governor General's Awards.[26]


The official sequel, Hunting By Stars, was published on October 19th, 2021. This sequel continues the storyline of French, now seventeen, and his found family.[27]

In September 2019, Dimaline wrote a second book in the series, Empire of Wild, following Joan, a"broken-hearted woman whose husband disappeared a year ago—only to return with a new name and with no memory of his past." While announcing the book, Dimaline commented: "Empire of Wild was the book that comes after The Marrow Thieves because it is based on a traditional story that my grandmother used to tell me all the time." The traditional story was a Metis legend. Speaking to writing about a woman as a protagonist, Dimaline said: "I decided that I was going to write a real woman. The women that I know, the women that I love, the women who raised me, the woman I hope I am."[28]

Empire of Wild was released on September 17, 2019[29] and was received generally well by critics.[30] Jason Sheehan of NPR praised the book's themes and story, saying "It is tight, stark, visceral, beautiful—rich where richness is warranted, but spare where want and sorrow have sharpened every word. And through multiple narrators , disconnected timelines, the strange geographies of memory and storytelling, Dimaline has crafted something both current and timeless, mythic but personal."[31]


  1. ^ Reese, Debbie (9 June 2017). "The Marrow Thieves".
  2. ^ a b "The Marrow Thieves". Retrieved 2021-04-15.
  3. ^ "Cherie Dimaline: ‘My community is where my stories come from and it’s also where my responsibilities lie’". The Globe and Mail, June 30, 2017.
  4. ^ Dimaline, Cherie (2017). The Marrow Thieves. Cormorant Books Inc. ISBN 9781770864863.
  5. ^ Dundas, Deborah (2017-11-06). "Cherie Dimaline: Hopes and dreams in the apocalypse". The Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 2021-10-22.
  6. ^ a b Henley, James (July 7, 2017). "The message YA novelist Cherie Dimaline has for young Indigenous readers". CBC. Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  7. ^ Oct 02, CBC Radio · Posted; January 8, 2017 10:46 AM ET | Last Updated; 2018. "How Cherie Dimaline found hope in a dystopian future | CBC Radio". CBC. Retrieved 2019-03-21.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "Canada Reads 2018: Cherie Dimaline on The Marrow Thieves". Retrieved 2021-10-22.
  9. ^ Reclaiming Lost Dreams, retrieved 2021-10-22
  10. ^ "Cherie Dimaline on the success of The Marrow Thieves and her new adult fiction Empire of Wild". Quill and Quire. 2019-09-12. Retrieved 2021-12-09.
  11. ^ Dimaline, Cherie (2017). The marrow thieves /. Dancing Cat Books. ISBN 978-1-77086-486-3.
  12. ^ The Marrow Thieves Summary.
  13. ^ Giard |, Kasey (2021-11-08). "Review: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline". The Story Sanctuary. Retrieved 2021-12-09.
  14. ^ "THE MARROW THIEVES by Cherie Dimaline". Kirkus Reviews. September 1, 2017.
  15. ^ Rose, Jessica (August 14, 2017). "The Marrow Thieves". Quill & Quire.
  16. ^ Ozirny, Shannon (September 22, 2017). "Review: Heather Smith's The Agony of Bun O'Keefe, Cherie Dimaline's The Marrow Thieves and S.K. Ali's Saints and Misfits". The Globe and Mail.
  17. ^ "The Marrow Thieves". Quill and Quire. 2017-08-14. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
  18. ^ "We're dealing with a society of children": Cherie Dimaline meets Jully Black | Canada Reads 2018, retrieved 2021-10-22
  19. ^ "Governor General Literary Awards announced: Joel Thomas Hynes wins top English fiction prize". CBC News, November 1, 2017.
  20. ^ "Cherie Dimaline's The Marrow Thieves wins $12K CODE Burt Award for Indigenous young adult literature". CBC Books, November 29, 2018.
  21. ^ "2018 Sunburst Winners | The Sunburst Award Society". Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  22. ^ "Cherie Dimaline wins U.S. Kirkus Prize for The Marrow Thieves". CBC Books, November 3, 2017.
  23. ^ "Meet the Canada Reads 2018 contenders". CBC Books. January 30, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  24. ^ "The Globe 100: These are the best books of 2017". Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  25. ^ "White Pine™ Fiction Nominees 2018". Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  26. ^ "Three Nova Scotians among 2019 Governor General's Literary Awards finalists". Truro News, October 2, 2019.
  27. ^ Noble, Barnes &. "Hunting by Stars (A Marrow Thieves Novel)|Hardcover". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved 2021-10-22.
  28. ^ "The Marrow Thieves author Cherie Dimaline is back with a novel for adults inspired by a Métis legend". CBC. September 13, 2019. Retrieved April 15, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  29. ^ Dimaline, Cherie (2019-09-17). Empire of Wild. Random House of Canada. ISBN 978-0-7352-7719-9.
  30. ^ Coats, Aaron (2020-07-29). "Finding What's Lost in 'Empire of Wild'". Chicago Review of Books. Retrieved 2021-04-23.
  31. ^ Sheehan, Jason (29 July 2020). "'Empire Of Wild' Tells A Small Story — But Not A Slight One". Retrieved 2021-04-23.