What the Heck is a “Revenant”? (A Tale of Past Revenge–And Present Greed)

This past weekend, my daughters were kind enough to allow me to use their computer after mine died. However, I didn’t want to test their patience by hogging their means of playing “Animal Jam” long enough to write a blog post.

Thankfully, Mr. AMB wrote one for me. It’s a review of The Revenant, a book I might read, contrary to my husband’s expectations, but won’t buy as an e-book (see the review for the reason).

Until Mr. AMB stumbled upon this book, I’d never heard of a “revenant.” It’s an antiquated word that those who’ve decried the overuse of “zombie apocalypse” should consider resurrecting (Remember these fabulous words? I’d love to see “Grimgribber” and “Flesh-tailor” come back into style).



Mr. AMB’s Review:

RevenantI told A.M.B. I didn’t know what to read next, and she recommended, “why don’t you try to find books like The Martian?” So I dutifully proceeded to Amazon, searched for The Martian, and thumbed through the “customers who bought this item also bought” tab until I came across The Revenant, by Michael Punke. The title jumped out at me because just last month, the epic trailer for the movie version of The Revenant came out.

The book, first published in 2002, was built upon the true-life story of Hugh Glass, a fur trapper in the 1820s who was mauled by a bear and then abandoned by the two men assigned to care for him. As the book’s description concludes,

With shocking grit and determination, Glass sets out crawling inch by inch across more than three thousand miles of uncharted American frontier, negotiating predators both human and not, the threat of starvation, and the agony of his horrific wounds. In Michael Punke’s hauntingly spare and gripping prose, The Revenant is a remarkable tale of obsession, the human will stretched to its limits, and the lengths that one man will go to for retribution.

Sounds good to me! (I can already hear A.M.B. replying, “sounds dreadful to me.”)

First things first: what the heck is a “revenant?” I had no idea.

The word comes to English from the French revenir (“to return”), and it means “a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.” These days, I’d assume such a person would be a zombie or undead. I ran a Google Ngram analysis and found that revenant was far more common than either zombie or undead until the 1960s. The underlying story in The Revenant takes place a century before either zombie or undead were used at all, and so the title is apt, and not just an excuse to use an antiquated term.

As the book’s description said, The Revenant is indeed “a remarkable tale,” one told through “gripping” prose that does for wilderness survival in the 1820s what The Martian did for extraterrestrial survival in the near future. When Glass decided to build a “bullboat,” something I’d never heard of, I went straight to Wikipedia, and found “From 1810 to 1830, American fur traders on the tributaries of the Missouri regularly built boats eighteen to thirty feet long, using the methods of construction employed by the Indians in making their circular boats.” Bravo. The vivid and detailed description of Glass’s tribulation is what really sells The Revenant, and makes it a compelling re-imagining of a true story from nearly two centuries ago that was only sparsely documented.

This Price was Set By MacMillanAh, but there’s a catch: the darn thing was $12.99, a price that Amazon tells me was set by Macmillan, one of the greedy publishers previously caught conspiring to raise e-book prices. Is electronic version of The Revenant worth $12.99? No, particularly not when The Martian is $5.99. Until the price drops, consider finding The Revenant at your local library.


  1. Excellent review Mr AMB. And as to the price, good, I hope it sells well at that price. Good writers have worked for a pittance for too long and too many excellent works are undervalued and underpriced.

  2. Has Mr AMB read Touching the Void? It’s another story of survival under extreme conditions, told by the survivor (spoiler alert ;-)).

  3. I am so glad you reviewed this book (and the price) as I was on dictionary.com just yesterday and revenant was one of their trending words. They mentioned the movie as the reason, but I hadn’t had time to look up what it was about. I feel much more informed now! Thanks!

  4. This book isn’t for me, but I love the title (revenant & revenge go well together). I can’t say I knew the term before this blog. It’s interesting to see how words rise and fall in popularity.

  5. My “first” encounter (in quotes because I may have come across it before, but this was the first I remember) was in Amy Plum’s Revenants series. I seem to remember fallen angels being referred to a revenants too at some point, in something I’d read. Whether that was before Plum’s series or not, I’m not sure.

    I don’t especially like to buy e-books at that rate. I find that a lot though with my Nook–which is probably one of the reasons I use my Kindle more. The other day I noticed several books on my wish list with print copies cheaper than the e-copies. When given a choice, I’ll generally go for the lower priced book, regardless of format. Ultimately though, it depends on how much I want to read a book and whether I have other options available to me.

  6. I won’t buy an ebook over $9.99. I’m with Amazon on this one. The magic zone is between $2.99 and $9.99, and I’m even a bit leery of the higher ranges. This books sounds good, but not usually my type of book, ad I certainly am not going to buy into the Big Five’s claptrap about prices. It’s a shame because it hurts their authors, something they claim Amazon does, when it’s the “stupid” consumers who decide how much they’re willing to pay.

    1. I usually avoid ebooks over $9.99. $12.99 is a ridiculous price for The Revenant, but my husband did end up buying it. Sometimes it’s hard to resist a book!

  7. I love the word “revenant.” It was used back in the days when Christian morality was the main answer to the question of why it’s wrong to bring people back from the dead (only God can create life anew).

  8. This does sound like an exciting book, but I agree: $12.99 for an ebook is insane. What’s up with those Big Six publishers, anyway?

    After reading Ready Player One, I was breathlessly awaiting Cline’s new release (four years in the making!), but I hesitated when I saw the price: $11.73 (I may be remembering incorrectly, but I know it was at least $11). I bought it anyway, then dove into the book. Turned out Armada wasn’t anywhere near as involving. In fact, I got bored with the space battles, shallow characterizations, and predictable plot, and barely managed to finish it. So disappointing.

    It’s experiences like this that make me shy away from buying other ebooks priced that high. What if I don’t like them? I hate that feeling of having wasted money.

    1. A couple of folks have told me that Armada was disappointing (I haven’t read it or Ready Player One, though). I try to avoid e-books that cost more than $9.99, but sometimes a new release is just too enticing! I find that I’m much harder on the book if it’s an expensive one.

      I hope you’re having a great weekend!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s