From School Library Journal
Grade 6-9–This historical tale is set in what is clearly England in a time that feels like the Norman era. Damiana is a Safe-Keeper, whose job is to listen to the secrets people confide in her and then to keep them to herself. She lives with her daughter, Fiona, and Reed, whom readers are told was a foundling. Others in the village also have special gifts including being a Dream-Maker and a Truth-Teller. The story portrays rural village life with a strong, loving extended family. However, everything changes for the young people when, at 15, they are sent to spend the summer with Damiana's sister. Reed lives with a merchant who gives him some experiences in his trading business while Fiona studies with a herbalist to learn the art of healing. On their return home, they find that their mother is dying. Before she dies, Damiana shares a secret with Fiona that she pledges to keep secret until the time she knows it is right to tell. Fiona takes on the role of Safe-Keeper but finds that this is not her true calling. Shinn writes well and has created a variety of interesting characters. The unraveling of a family secret at the end comes as a complete surprise, but rather than adding to the story, it feels a little like a cheat. Still, this does not detract significantly from the story.–Jane G. Connor, South Carolina State Library, Columbia
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Gr. 7-12. When she grows up, Fiona plans to be her village's Safe-Keeper, just like her mother, Damiana, who listens to, but cannot repeat, her neighbors' most troubling stories. Fiona's own family has plenty of secrets: Fiona doesn't know her father's identity, and on the night of her birth, the king's messenger left a mysterious baby with Damiana, asking her to keep and protect the child. The boy, Reed, and Fiona grow up in a bucolic setting as best friends, surrounded by a loving, extended family of magical adults. When Damiana falls ill, Reed and Fiona leave their childhood behind as they care for their mother and make startling discoveries about their respective parents. Shinn, whose fantasy titles for adults have earned her a wide teen following, heavily foreshadows a romance between Reed and Fiona, an element that may disturb some readers, particularly those in blended families. The romance is only hinted at, however, and teens will connect with Shinn's vividly drawn fantasy world as well as her provocative questions about truth, justice, and individual destiny. Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved