The Keepers' Tattoo

The Keepers' Tattoo

4.5 2
by Gill Arbuthnott

What is the mystery that marks her? A lush, multitextured fantasy introducing a captivating heroine, Nyssa, descendant of seers, vessel of their secrets.

Ten years ago, Alaric, leader of the Shadowmen, killed most of the Keepers--teachers of ancient knowledge that threatened his barbaric rule. Young Kit was captured, but his twin sister, Nyssa, escaped. Only

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What is the mystery that marks her? A lush, multitextured fantasy introducing a captivating heroine, Nyssa, descendant of seers, vessel of their secrets.

Ten years ago, Alaric, leader of the Shadowmen, killed most of the Keepers--teachers of ancient knowledge that threatened his barbaric rule. Young Kit was captured, but his twin sister, Nyssa, escaped. Only later will she learn that both she and her lost brother bear the secret words of their people: three lines each of strange, unintelligible writing tattooed on their scalps. Now the Shadowmen are on the attack again, determined to quell a growing rebellion. Nyssa must find her brother, and together they must unlock the meaning--the power--behind the mysterious words.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 14-year-old Nyssa’s world, nearly everyone has tattoos—“They were symbols of birth signs, clan signs, good-luck charms, or just family traditions.” But Nyssa’s mark is unlike anyone else’s, and she soon learns that she has another tattoo hidden in her hair—one that men will kill for. With her uncle Marius, Nyssa flees the only home she has ever known to seek the mysterious meaning behind her tattoos and, possibly, the long-lost twin brother whose life she occasionally shares through dreams. Although the nature of the evil in Nyssa’s world is barely explained, the day-to-day threat of the Shadowmen tracking her is palpable and creates real suspense (the narrative occasionally shifts to focus on Alaric, ruler of the Shadowmen, providing a chilling counterpart to Nyssa’s story). Her odyssey through the islands of the Archipelago calls to mind Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books, and, like Le Guin, Scottish author Arbuthnott (the Kelpies series) writes with restraint and thoughtfulness, never condescending to her readers. Nyssa is a convincing mixture of ignorance, courage, and resourcefulness, and her pragmatic friend, Aria, is an ideal foil. Ages 9-14. (May)
Children's Literature - Allison Fetters
Nyssa's world is suddenly turned upside down when she is forced to escape the life she has known in her caretaker's tavern, Drowned Boy Inn. When danger approaches in the form of the Shadowmen who are looking for Nyssa, she learns that one of the tavern's regular customers is her uncle, Marius. Marius has been guarding Nyssa since the age of four when her family was killed during a village raid. Marius and Nyssa set off on a journey to escape the Shadowmen and their orders from Alaric, the White Wolf. Through a series of dreams which become more intense as they travel, Nyssa discovers a family member who is still alive and persuades Marius to go and find him. This adventure leads them to the lair of danger but also to the discovery behind the meaning of the secret tattooed message that she and her brother, Kit, carry on their heads. She learns of the secrets of the Keepers and her role within their history. Nyssa's strength and determination lead her through many dangers and challenges without allowing her to give up. Through the struggles, bonds of family and friendship are formed that will last a lifetime. Reviewer: Allison Fetters
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—Nyssa is a cheerful young cook and tavern maid in a medieval-like world. But, as with many lowly orphans in fantasy novels, she has a secret identity. She has a mysterious tattoo on the back of her head, one half of an inscription in a language long forgotten, that of the Keepers, a civilization based on science and reason. Nyssa also has nightmares so concrete that she wonders if she is living inside another person's mind. When the terrifying Shadowmen arrive and seem to be pursuing her, she is aided in her escape by her uncle Marius and a dance hall girl named Aria. Central to the plot is Nyssa's discovery of her twin brother, who has been badly abused by Alaric the White Wolf, a cruel dictator bent on empire building. Once Nyssa and her friends rescue Kit, they are on the run again. Can they translate the tattoos that mark the siblings before the White Wolf's Shadowmen catch them? Will the secrets of the past give them power to save the world? Coincidence plays a big part throughout, including the climax, but the story has interior charms. Nyssa is an earnest and fiercely independent girl, her friendship with Aria is lively and nonjudgmental, and both girls grow into lives that satisfy their true natures. When readers meet Kit, he is a starved, battered, and speechless slave boy, the alter ego of Nyssa's nightmares. Slowly, in the company of his loving sister, he develops into a thoughtful and expressive young man. A pleasing adventure for fantasy fans.—Carolyn Lehman, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA

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Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.50(d)
790L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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The Keepers' Tattoo 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Nyssa lives a life like any other teenage orphan in the Archipelago - she works slugging beers and cooking for her room and board. She tries to imagine what her past could be and also to understand the many strange dreams she has had since she was a child. Nothing and no one is left to tell her, except for one piece of history - the small crane tattooed on her upper forearm. One day while at the docks, a dark, foreboding ship is seen sailing into the harbor. Nyssa thinks nothing of it until that night, when a man named Marius, a familiar regular at her bar, ushers her and the barkeep aside, and her life forever changes. The ship is of the Shadowmen and their leader, Alaric from Thira, the old, powerful capital of the Archipelago. Alaric and his Shadowmen are known to have taken over the islands of the Archipelago years ago and killed off people from the clan known as The Keepers. The Keepers seemed magical in the vast amount of knowledge they passed on from one Keeper to the next. No one believes they exist except in Legend. All except Marius and William, who show Nyssa their matching crane tattoos and tell her she, too, is a Keeper - and that the Shadowmen are looking for her! Marius takes her away from the Drowned Boy bar and on the run to escape notice and capture by the Shadowmen. Nyssa's past and the secrets of her tattoo begin to reveal themselves. She slowly begins to piece together her life in connection with the Keeper's Legend. She is one of the twins from the Legend, a twin who has three lines of script tattooed on the back of her head, half of a powerful verse that once saved the Archipelago from the Shadowmen. Half of a verse, one of two twins ...suddenly Nyssa understands the visions she has seen for years. She has been seeing the life of her twin, Kit, who was captured by Alaric long ago and forced into slavery. Determined to save him, Nyssa will do anything to get to Thira with or without Marius's help. And she just might save the Archipelago from Alaric and the Shadowmen, too, if she can avoid capture and death along the way. Arbuthnott has written a realistic fantasy/adventure novel with an artistic, literary prose. Though a fast read, there are still challenging concepts lightly and thoughtfully touched upon. Who tells history? And what is the power of history over legend? Is there a difference? Fans of THE HUNGER GAMES, WINGS, AND INCARCERON will find similar styles of intrigue, surprise, and cliff-hanging chapter endings that make this 400+ page book seem like the shortest and most thrilling adventure to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago