I've been hooked on books since childhood, and still am. I usually have at least three books going at any given time. After nearly two decades teaching middle school, I've developed strong opinions about YA fiction. A married mother of many adult children, and a practicing Catholic, my moral paradigms do play into my reviews.
Book Review: Shamer's Daughter, by Lene Kaaberbol
How did this book get past me when it was first published? The premise is described in the trailer for the novel: Dina is the daughter of the Village Shamer, a woman who can read the truth in people through looking at their eyes, and the daughter has inherited the gift herself, though at the beginning of the novel it sure does not FEEL like a gift to her.
This book has many things I liked: a realistic setting (medieval-ish, and maybe somewhere rather like northern England or Scotland in, say, the 1100s or so?) and a likable heroine who is NOT perfect. Then there's mystery, and people striving for power, and real dragons who are nasty and relentlessly awful, and a hero boy (Nico) who is also likable and flawed and who (for once) does NOT save the day for the girl. A little politics, some nasty fighting, a close-to-dying experience or two, and a bit of female friendship, and this book has everything a middle school kid, (male or female) might want.
Loved that this did not end on a rosey happy syrupy sweet note. Was amazed to find that this was originally written in Danish, and translated into English: nicely done! It flows beautifully. Note to parents: there are a handful of words that some might find offensive, such as slut and whore. They are used by nasty people behaving in mean ways, and are clearly not encouraged to be used by the readers. But they are in there. Also, the villain is a true sociopath and his mother, Lady Death, creeped me out. But their motivation for what they do in the book is utterly realistic and believable.
I found the mother to be a character truly worth emulating: honest even when it may cost not only her own life but her child's as well, and truly not interested in what other people think of her. Dina begins to see this as the book progresses, and also finds that the burdonsome gift she has inherited might also be a blessing as well. The Widow Petri is much the same way: good to the core, and mature.
I'm just amazed I did not brush up against this series before now, as it was published in 2002. Looking forward to finding the sequels.