I discovered ‘Sky Dance’ while looking for non-fiction titles in the Scottish Interest section of my local Waterstones. In the past I have struggled to engage with a lot of rewilding books and often been intimidated by the political conflict. But after reading the blurb I realised that ‘Sky Dance’ was actually a novel. The story follows two hill walkers who get caught up in a row between conservationists and landowners about the reintroduction of lynx into Scotland. There is a fictional island called Morven and a landowner who ticks all the stereotype boxes of a tweed outfit, upper middle-class pomposity and a disregard for any animals besides grouse.
It is a strange book in many ways – especially the surprising ending – but I enjoyed the unorthodox approach. Acknowledging a potentially heavy topic such as rewilding through the medium of fiction was intriguing. ‘Sky Dance’ conveys important messages while remaining full of action. There are a few too many side stories which muddled the plot for me, but the main narrative about the lynx was an engaging one.
It would be fantastic if the reintroduction of a long-lost predator into Scotland could one day be a reality and not a piece of fiction. Burns explains that lynx would pose no danger to humans and only have a very low impact on livestock. If famers were compensated for these small losses then lynx would undoubtedly make a valuable contribution to the restoration of an unbalanced ecosystem that is currently overflowing with deer and damaged trees. Wolves and bears raise more difficult issues, but I believe lynx should definitely be brought back to the UK. John D. Burns paints quite a haunting picture of what the Scottish Highlands could look like if we started to reverse the damage we’ve caused by hunting apex predators to extinction.
Published in 2019, ‘Sky Dance’ is John D. Burns’s third book. He has spent over forty years climbing mountains and fifteen years writing. To hear more from John, visit his website for blogs and podcasts.