The Shamer's Daughter (Shamer Chronicles Series #1)

The Shamer's Daughter (Shamer Chronicles Series #1)

5.0 8
by Lene Kaaberbøl

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"I gobbled it up!"--Tamora Pierce

Dina has unwillingly inherited her mother's gift: the ability to elicit shamed confessions simply by looking into someone's eyes. To Dina, however, these powers are not a gift but a curse. Surrounded by fear and hostility, she longs for simple friendship.

But when her mother is called to Dunark Castle to uncover the

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"I gobbled it up!"--Tamora Pierce

Dina has unwillingly inherited her mother's gift: the ability to elicit shamed confessions simply by looking into someone's eyes. To Dina, however, these powers are not a gift but a curse. Surrounded by fear and hostility, she longs for simple friendship.

But when her mother is called to Dunark Castle to uncover the truth about a bloody triple murder, Dina must come to terms with her power--or let her mother fall prey to the vicious and revolting dragons of Dunark.

Editorial Reviews

This first book in the Shamer Chronicles is a page-turner; readers will eagerly await the next episode.
Publishers Weekly
Kaaberbol's multidimensional fantasy, first published in Danish and fluidly translated by the author, concerns a 10-year-old girl and her mother who both possess the "gift" of being able to see into a person's soul. Narrator Dina's mother is the town Shamer, able to look into a person's eyes and read their deepest secrets and shames. Often called upon to determine the guilt or innocence of a person suspected of a crime, the Shamer is summoned by Drakan, lord of Dunark Castle, to "read" his cousin, 17-year-old Nicodemus, who stands accused of three gruesome murders. She finds him innocent-but that's not the answer that Drakan is looking for. He seems convinced of Nicodemus's guilt; conveniently, the killings have left Drakan the heir to the throne, and the railroading that follows places both mother and daughter in peril. Dina's mother is soon sentenced to die (for being a false Shamer), and it is up to Dina and Nico to rescue her and remove the usurper from power. As Kaaberbol develops it, the idea of the Shamer carries deep moral and practical implications: echoes of religious hypocrisy ripple through the "false Shamer" accusation, and the story explores the idea that knowledge can be as dangerous as it is helpful. Dina becomes particularly winning because of her determination to use her gift in a more positive manner than the others before her. The first in the Shamer Chronicles series, this novel stands on its own and offers a satisfying conclusion even as it provides an intriguing setting and mythology for future adventures. Ages 11-up. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Although Dina loves her family, she resents being the daughter of the Shamer. Her mother possesses the ability to make people feel shame for the wrongs they have committed. Dina recently realized that she possesses the same gift, and thus will be trained as a Shamer by her mother. When Dina's mother is summoned to uncover the truth about a murder, she and Dina both find themselves ensnared in a plot to seize the throne. Draken has accused his cousin Nicodemus of killing the king, the queen, and their newborn son. When Dina's mother refuses to pronounce Nicodemus guilty, Draken attempts to use Dina as leverage. Dina and Nicodemus escape, and with the help of the court scientist, a healer, and an abused girl, Dina tries to find a way to prove Nicodemus's innocence and save her mother from being fed to dragons. The Shamer's Daughter is a gripping beginning for a fantasy series. Dina is a very intelligent, resourceful, sympathetic character. Her adventures will keep the reader absorbed until the very end of the book and leave them looking for the next installment in the series. 2000, Henry Holt, Ages 10 up.
—Amie Rose Rotruck
Ten-year-old Dina Tonerre is angry. People she has known all her life now avoid her, refusing to meet her eye. The middle child of three, Dina alone has inherited her mother's gift of looking into another person's eyes, making that person aware of all she is ashamed of while simultaneously feeling and "remembering" that person's experiences. When Dina's mother is called to distant Dunark to judge the guilt of the Castellan's youngest son, seventeen-year-old Nicodemus, in a horrific triple murder, events are set in motion that catapult Dina into early maturity and full awareness and skill in her powers. Dina's mother refuses to proclaim Nico guilty, and Drakan, bastard son of the Castellan and dragon master, comes for Dina, telling her "your mother needs you." Curiously resistant to the Shamer's power, Drakan forces Dina to spend the night in the cell with the accused murderer in an attempt to coerce Dina's mother to "admit" Nico's guilt. When Dina herself becomes convinced of Nico's innocence, Drakan attempts to frame Nico for Dina's death. Instead, Dina and Nico escape through the Dragon Pit, with knowledge of Drakan's scheme to assume power and control of Dunark. Classic adventure fantasy, with the right combination of personalities, power, intrigue, and dragons to forestall any hint of a formulaic approach, this first book of The Shamer Chronicles has plenty of plot twists to complement the action. Initially headstrong and angry about her differences, young Dina becomes a purposeful young girl intent on justice, employing her power with increasing effectiveness and purpose. It will prove to be a sure hit with tried and true as well as potential fantasy readers. VOYA Codes 5Q 4P M J S(Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Henry Holt, 230p., Ages 11 to 18.
—Kim Carter
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Like her mother, the local Shamer, Dina can see the shameful truths hidden in the souls of her fellow villagers-if only they will look her in the eye. Of course, everyone avoids her, and she has grown to hate her so-called "gift." Then Mama is taken prisoner, and Dina must use her truth-telling ability to solve a triple murder and rescue her mother and the young man falsely accused of the crime. Suspenseful and sometimes gory, this fantasy features interesting secondary characters and a well-drawn preindustrial setting. Occasional corny dialogue and overlong escape scenes won't deter readers, who will speed through the unfolding of the story's many mysteries: Who really killed the noble Castellan and his family? Why are there ravenous dragons at his castle? Whom can Dina trust now that the killer has seized control of the kingdom? Although only 10, she thinks and acts like an older child, and her increasing courage and resourcefulness in the face of evil doings, exhaustion, and the strains of her own talent will appeal to fans of Tamora Pierce's work. By the end of the book, Dina finds some peace as she makes a new friend and learns that her gift can heal as well as cause pain. Since the killer remains in power, plenty of conflict has yet to be resolved in the novel's proposed sequels.-Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A different kind of magic gives spark to this series opener. Dina, like her mother, is a shamer. Nobody in the village will be her friend-one look into Dina's eyes will magically reveal all of the gazer's shameful deeds. If she could, Dina would reject her magic. But when her mother refuses to use shamer power to condemn an innocent man, powerful enemies appear. Dina will need all her gifts to rescue her mother. With wrongfully accused Nicodemus-innocent, Dina knows, of his father's murder-Dina must escape Dunark, now ruled by the wicked upstart Drakan and his dragons. Drakan is mysteriously immune to shame and Dina's magic, and he needs to kill the rightful heir, Nicodemus, to consolidate his rule. Worse, he's condemned Dina's mother to death for witchcraft. Though plenty of plot threads are left for the next three series entries to resolve, Dina's first volume comes to a satisfying conclusion. Standard fantasy spiced with likable characters and an intriguing new magical ability-eagerly awaiting volume two (Fantasy. 10-14)

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Product Details

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
Shamer Chronicles Series, #1
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.54(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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Chapter One: "The Shamer's Brat"

Strictly speaking, it wasn't really Cilla's fault that I was bitten by a dragon. It was probably sheer coincidence that she decided to throw a bucket of whey in my face on the very day the man from Dunark came. But every time my arm hurts...every time I miss Cherry Tree Cottage and the pear trees and the chickens we had...I get mad at Cilla all over again.

Cilla was the miller's daughter, the only girl in a brood of six. Maybe that was the reason why she had become such a pain. Every time Cilla wanted something, a slice of honey-bread, a silk ribbon, perhaps, or a new set of Prince-and-Dragon markers...well, all she had to do was flutter her eyelashes and make her voice all syrupy. Her eyes were periwinkle blue, and she had the most charming dimples when she smiled. Her dad was putty in her hands. And if anybody teased her or thwarted her in some way, she complained to a couple of her brothers. They had all worked in the mill practically from the time they could walk, and they thought nothing of tossing around sacks of grain as if they were filled with feathers. Nobody liked to cross them, not even my own brother, Davin, who actually seemed to enjoy a good fight now and then. Most of the time, Cilla was in the habit of getting exactly what she wanted.

Normally, I gave her a very wide berth. But that day had been a bad day from the start. Mama had scolded me for leaving my shawl out by the woodshed the day before, so that it was now soaking wet. I got into a fight with Davin, and Melli, my four-year-old pest of a little sister, had picked the eyes off my old rag doll. So what if I was much too old to be playing with dolls — Nana was my doll, and Melli had taken her without even asking. I was so mad and so fed up with the whole family that I couldn't stay in the house with them. I stood for a while in the barn and shared my woes with Blaze, our brown mare, who had the sweetest of tempers and was very patient with most human beings. But then Davin led her out to graze among the pear trees in the orchard, and the barn became lonely and boring. I knew that if my mother caught sight of me, it would not take her long to find some task for me; she was of the opinion that work is the best cure for the sulks. Without really thinking about it, I set off down the road toward the village.

Birches is not a big town, but we do have a smithy, an inn, and the mill, run by Cilla's parents, not to mention eleven different houses and farms of varying sizes. And then there are the places like Cherry Tree Cottage, some distance from the village yet somehow still a part of it. In almost all the houses were families, and almost all the families had children, some of them as many as eight or ten. You would think, with so many to choose from, that it would be possible for me to find a friend or two, or at least some playmates. But no. Not me. Not the Shamer's daughter. Two years ago I would still play sometimes with Sasia from the inn. But then it became more and more difficult for her to look me in the eyes, and after that, things became kind of difficult. Now she avoided me completely, just like everyone else.

So, having walked about a mile through mud and gusty winds to reach the village, I had no idea what to do there. I rarely went there anymore, except to run a few errands for Mama; and I ended up standing indecisively in the village square, trying to look as if I had merely stopped for a minute to catch my breath. Janos Tinker went by with his handcart, waving at me but not quite looking. At the smithy Rikert was shoeing the miller's gray gelding. He called my name and wished me a good afternoon, but stayed bent over his work the whole time. And then big fat drops of rain started to spatter the gravel, and I could no longer pretend to be basking in the sun. I headed for the inn, possibly just out of habit. The main room was nearly empty; a lone guest was having a meal, a big bear of a highlander, from up the Skayler range. Probably he had taken summer work as a caravan guard and was on his way home now. He cast a quick and curious glance my way, but even without knowing me, he instinctively looked away, avoiding my eyes.

Behind the counter, Sasia's mother was wiping glasses.

"Hello, Dina," she said politely, her eyes strictly on the glass she was polishing. "What can we do for you?"

What would she do if I said, Look at me? But I didn't, of course. "Is Sasia in?" I asked instead.

"No, I think she is over at the mill." She jerked her chin in that general direction, still without looking at me.

I think that that is where things really started to go wrong. I could feel this harsh and bitter anger building inside, an anger fed by all those downcast eyes and backs so casually turned against me. I knew. I knew that it would be so much easier for them if I simply stayed away. But I hadn't asked for the damned Shamer's eyes; I couldn't help being my mother's daughter. I still remember vividly how I cried when Sasia would no longer play with me.

"What's wrong with me?" I had asked my mother.

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with you," she said. "You've inherited my gift, that's all." She seemed both proud and sad. I wasn't proud, just lonely and miserable, and if I could have torn her so-called gift out of myself I would have done it, torn it out and cast it away, there and then and without hesitation. Unfortunately, that wasn't possible. I had my gift and I was stuck with it.

If I hadn't been so very angry, I might just have gone home. But a bitter sort of defiance was rising in me. So they would like for me to keep out of their way. So it would be so much easier for everyone. But what about me? Didn't I have a right to be here? Someone to talk to, someone to be wasn't that much to ask, was it? So with my defiance burning like a hot lump in my throat I strode across the square and onto Mill Street.

"Did you want something, Dina?" asked Ettie Miller when she saw me. She was busy getting the laundry off the line before the rain soaked it again.

"I'm looking for Sasia," I said.

"I think they're all in the hay barn," she answered indistinctly, her mouth full of clothes-pegs. And of course she kept her eyes firmly on her sheets and shirts and never once looked at me.

I crossed the yard and ducked in through the barn doors. The space inside was wrapped in gloom, but they had carved some turnip lanterns and stuck candles in them, making them look like glowing skulls. It looked cosy and scary all at once. On top of the hay cart Cilla sat enthroned, a pink sheet around her shoulders and a crown of ox-eye daisies on her gold-blond hair. The rest of the girls were ranged in a semicircle around her, and in the middle stood Sasia, the miller's old felt hat on her head, trying to remember all twelve stanzas of "My Love, He was a Traveling Man." She was well into the seventh and doing badly. She got stuck twice, and when she finally got going again, she had the seventh amd the eighth all mixed up.

They were playing Court-the Princess, and of course Cilla was the Princess. If I knew her at all, she would somehow make the tasks she set her suitors so impossible that no one else would ever get a shot at the throne. The "courtier" started to boo and wolf-whistle at poor Sasia, and Cilla grandly told her unlucky suitor to go away and return some other day. Then she caught sight of me, and the grand manners crumbled a little.

"What are you doing here?"

"I've come to pay court to the Princess," I said. "What else?"

"You're not invited," Cilla snarled, and studied her fingertips in a way that was designed to make it look as if it was simply beneath her dignity to look at me. "Tell me, Sasia, do you recall us inviting the Shamer's brat?"

Sasia mumbled something, staring at the ground, and I lost my temper.

"You may think you're a princess, Cilla," I said indignantly, "but you behave like a louse!"

Her head came up, and she nearly looked at me. "I'll give you louse, you —" But she brought herself up short and seemed to reconsider. "No, I'm sorry," she resumed. "Maybe we are being unfair. Dina, if you really want to, you're welcome to play."

A gasp of disbelief went through the group. I, too, had some difficulty in understanding this sudden change of heart. Generosity was not Cilla's strong suit.

"Do you really mean that? I can play?"

"Wasn't that what you wanted?"


"All right. Fine. Pay court to me."

Maybe that was all she wanted—me on my knees in front of her. It galled me a bit, but it had been ages since I had played with anyone but Davin and Melli, and a bit of groveling seemed a small price to pay. I unbuttoned my cape and threw it across one shoulder to make it look more like a knight's mantle. Sasia tossed me the felt hat without raising her eyes at all.

"O Gentle Princess Lily-white—look with favor upon this Knight," I intoned, the was I was supposed to.

"I favor no man until he—hath proved his worth for all to see," replied Cilla, continuing the chant.

"My wit, my skill, my strength, my nerve—command you, for I beg to serve."

"The trials I demand of thee—are hard indeed and numbered three—of which the first, my knight, shall be..." Cilla drew out the last words as if stalling for time, but I could tell by her smile that she had already made up her mind. "Singing all twelve stanzas of 'My Love, He was a Traveling Man'—standing on one leg, blindfolded! Thea, lend her your scarf."

It is harder than it sounds, standing on one leg with a blindfold on. Luckily the scarf was not too tight, and by squinting down the side of my nose, I could see the straw of the barn floor and retain some sense of up and down. And I have a much better memory than Sasia.

My love, he was a traveling man,

as fine a tinker as God ever made.

He mended every pot and pan

but broke the heart of many a maid...

I was well aware of the giggles and rustles around me, but I refused to be distracted. Stanza after stanza I sang, ignoring the trembling muscles of the leg I was standing on. When the strain became nearly too much, I concentrated on the sour look on Cilla's face when she had to give up the crown to ME, and suddenly singing a few more lines became easy. I was just taking a deep breath, ready to start on the twelfth stanza, when it happened.

Something very cold and wet slammed into my face, and instead of air I inhaled a big mouthful of whey. I completely lost my balance and tumbled to the ground, coughing and fighting to breathe. Whey gurgled in my throat, and some of it went up my nose, burning painfully. At first I had no idea what had happened. But once I wrenched off the scarf and saw Cilla standing there with the empty bucket, laughing her head off, things became very clear indeed.

"Get lost, witch brat, and don't come back some other day," said Cilla, nearly choking on her own laughter. She was so busy laughing that she didn't even think about running. And she should have. Never in my life had I been so furious. I needed only one short breath, then I was on my feet, and then on her. She keeled over backward and fell flat on her back with me astride her chest. I held her face between my hands, and then I took my revenge.

"Look at me, you vain little pea-hen. Look into my eyes!"

She didn't want to. She screamed and wept, tyring to close her eyes, but I had her, and I had no intention of letting her go. "Look at me!" I hissed once more, and she seemed to lose the will to resist me. The periwinkle blue eyes slid open and stared into mine.

"You are self-centered and spoiled," I whispered. It was no longer necessary to raise my voice; she could hear my words as clearly as she heard her own thoughts. "I can't think of a single thing you have ever done for another person. And I know every lousy little trick you have ever used to get your own way. I know how you got that ring you're wearing. I know how you made Sasia give you her favorite blue ribbon. I know how you lied to your brothers to make them beat up Crazy Nate. What had he ever done, other than follow you around because he thought your hair was pretty? Nothing, Cilla. You lied. You are so petty, so mean, so low and wretched that it makes me sick to look at you. I know it all, Cilla, I know you." And I did, I really did. As I sat there on her chest, whispering into her face, I knew every mean thing she had ever done. And though she screamed and kicked and writhed as if she were drowning, there was no way out for her. I forced her to see herself. And I forced her to be ashamed of what she saw.

One of the other girls tried to push me off her, but I only had to turn my head and look at her to make her leap back as though I was spitting acid in her direction.

"You are so wretched, Cilla," I repeated, slightly louder. "And if you think any of your court here really like you for your own sake, you are so wrong."

I got up. Cilla stayed on the floor, weeping so hard that anyone would have thought I had taken a whip to her.

"And you lot," I continued. "You're not much better. You who come here to pay court to Princess Cilla just because you're scared of her, or because you want something from her, or because you like her petty schemes. Go ahead. Play your little games. But do it without me. I have had my fill of you!" I looked around the circle, but the only eyes to meet mine were the eerily glowing gaze of the turnip lanterns. My anger flickered. This was not at all what I wanted; this was not the ending I had hoped for. But right now it seemed like the only thing I could do was to walk away from them.

Before I reached the barn doors, one of them swung open, and Cilla's father appeared.

"What do you think you're doing?" he yelled. "Cilla, what happened?"

Cilla just sobbed on, making no other reply. Then the miller caught proper sight of me, and he wasted no time in deciding who was to blame.

"You devil's spawn, what've you done to her? If you've hurt my Cilla I'll—"

"I barely touched—" But I had no time to finish my sentence. He slapped me so hard across the cheek that the sound echoed in the gloomy space of the barn.

"Your kind don't need to touch," he snarled. "Run on back to your witch of a mother, and if I ever catch you hurting my Cilla again...Shamer or no, I'll whip the living daylights out of you, even if I have to pull a sack over your head to do it!"

I could barely stand. My head was buzzing from the slap, and there was a rusty taste of blood in my mouth from where I had bitten my tongue. But I knew better than to ask for sympathy. I straightened and walked out, tall as I could. Trying to look as if I cared not one bit for any of them, not Cilla, not Sasia, nor any of the others, I strode off into the rain without looking back.


Walking the mile or so back home took a while. It took me even longer to steel myself to face my mother. It wasn't just that my green wool cape and my shirt and apron all stank to high heaven from the whey. It was more that—well, I didn't think she would be terribly pleased at what I'd done. I felt so miserable. So lonley. Davin had friends. Melli had friends—everybody thought she was so cute. Why was it that I seemed doomed to have no one other than my family? I ended up in Blaze's stall again; it is amazing how comfortable it is to be near a big, warm animal who doesn't care whether you have Shamer's eyes or not. I leaned against the soft brown neck and cried a bit, as the last of the daylight slowly waned.

A soft glow crept around the edges of the door, and then suddenly Mama was there, holding s20the lantern we use when we have to go outside at night.

"Dina?" she called softly. "Why are you standing here in the dark?" She raised the lantern to get a better look at me. "What happened?"

Lying to my mother is of course a hopeless task. Keeping something secret is nearly as impossible. So I told her most of it, and she guessed the rest. When I was done, she looked at me for a while. She did not scold me. She merely waited until I knew that what I had done was wrong. Then she nodded.

"What you have is a gift," she said. "And a power, not to be abused." She reached into her apron pocket and held something out to me. "Here. I've been waiting to give you this, and I think the time has come."

It was a pendant, a round pewter circle decorated with a smaller circle of white enamel, with a still smaller blue circle inside it. It wasn't glittery or beautiful; it had no shiny silver chain or anything, just a round black leather thong fitting like a noose around my neck. But I knew it was a very special thing all the same. Mama had one almost like it, except the inner circle on hers was black rather than blue.

"Why do you want me to have this?"

"Because you're my apprentice now."

"Your apprentice..."

"Yes. Starting tomorrow, I shall begin to teach you how to use your gift—and how and when not to use it."

"I don't want to learn to use it," I said rebelliously. "What good does it ever do?"

Mama sighed. "When something has been stolen. Or when some man or woman has hurt another, perhaps even killed...that is when they send for the Shamer. There are people in this world who are capable of doing evil without feeling much shame. And there are people so good at hiding their shame, even from themselves, people who can think up a thousand excuses, until they actually believe they have a right to hurt, steal, or lie. But when they come face to face with me, they can no longer hide. Not from themselves, nor from others. Most people possess some sense of shame. And if I come across one of the very few who don't...well, I can make them ashamed if I have to. Because I have a gift that I have learned to use. A rather unusual gift. That you also have."

"But I don't want it!" It came out in a sob, heartfelt and anguished.

English translation copyright © 2002 by Lene Kaaberbol

This text is from an uncorrected proof.

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