Second Childhood Reviews

McMahon’s settings are evocative, her plotting brisk, and her characters morally complex—villains become victims and then villains again, in a satisfying way—and the novel itself is as edgy and original as Dance of Knives. It’s worth checking out.

— Gary K. Wolfe, Locus Magazine, August 2010

McMahon, who lives on the Sunshine Coast, has written a gripping thriller set in a well realized, believable near future. She fluidly juxtaposes and contrasts the seemingly idyllic Cortes with the post-apocalyptic chaos of the rest of the world.

I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys thrillers or near-future science fiction. Even those who generally avoid or ignore science fiction may find the references to British Columbia history, geography and culture and the depictions of post-apocalypse Vancouver and Cortes make the book worth a read.

— Review by  Terry Lavender in the Vancouver Observer – for the full review click this link.

If you live in coastal British Columbia, there’s a special pleasure in discovering one of the rare science fiction novels set in your own backyard. In Dance of Knives, the first of  Donna McMahon’s  dystopian SF novels of a post-Collapse  Cascadia, advanced 22nd century biotechnology was set against a background of familiar landmarks  and  familiar social problems – Vancouver’s  crumbling Downtown Eastside, the waterfront, seedy bars, criminal gangs and ruthless enforcers .

In Second Childhood the story moves to the Gulf Islands, and a note of hope — even optimism – softens the edges of McMahon’s grimly realistic cyberpunk world. This is a writer who knows her science; but clearly, too, she has a close and loving relationship with the west coast landscape. At its heart, Second Childhood is a story of redemption, and the healing power of the natural world.

McMahon’s characters – Toni, Klale, the devious Yasmin, the horribly damaged Simon – are not always sympathetic or even likeable, but they’re complex, fully realized individuals, surviving in any way they can, in a society disturbingly similar to our own.

—  Eileen Kernaghan,
author of The Snow Queen and The Sarsen Witch

Reading Donna McMahon’s 2nd novel Second Childhood, I enjoyed the character of Simon as much as I did in book 1. Second Childhood continues the story Donna started in her first novel, Dance of Knives. Such good reads!

Nalo Hopkinson,
author of Brown Girl in the Ring, and The Salt Roads


“The characters are complex, the writing is professional and the pace moves at lightning speed — guaranteed to keep bedtime readers awake.”

Jan DeGrass, The Coast Reporter fromForward Looking Fiction, May 14, 2010


Simon… is a fascinating tour-de-force character and his metamorphosis from a mindless meat machine to a real human being is lovingly and beautifully handled. McMahon almost skates into the hard-to-conquer territory of multiple personalitiy disorder, except that here the personalities are manufactured ones, built on, as Blade the enforcer is grafted onto Simon the little boy.

Interesting psychological twists and turns here, and the relationship between the broken patient and his just-as-broken (if not more so) therapist in the person of Toni is breathtaking in its nuanced portrayal. It’s all a high-wire dance without a net, and you get a very real sense of that in this story.

Alma Alexander, author of  the Worldweaver novels, and The Secrets of Jin-shei. Full Review here.