Praise for The Safe-Keeper's Secret
"Teens will connect with Shinn's vividly drawn fantasy world as well as her provocative questions about truth, justice, and individual destiny."—Booklist
"The most promising and original writer of fantasy to come along since Robin McKinley."—Peter S. Beagle, best-selling author of The Last Unicorn
A mysterious rider brings a newborn baby to the home of the Safe-Keeper of Tambleham village. (Safe-keepers keep the secrets of those who confide in them for a coin or some other small token). That same safe-keeper, Damiana, gives birth to a baby a short time later. Raising both children as her own, she keeps the secret of both of their birthrights; however, most of the residents of Tambleham assume that Reed is the illegitimate son of King Marcus and that Fionawho wants to be a safe-keeper herselfis Damiana's true daughter. The two children, fiercely loyal to each other, grow into young adults who view the world in very different ways. Fiona simply wants to stay at home and learn the trades of herbalist and safe-keeper; Reed is anxious to explore the world and the choices it offers. But when they find that Damiana is dying, both young people find that life sometimes molds people to its will, forcing them to contemplate ideas or realities not previously considered. With the aid of their friend Isadora, the Dream-Maker, Fiona and Reed learn how to face their futures and in doing so, positively impact those they love and value. This charming fantasy allows readers to consider the place of love and luck in their lives, and the dimensionality of Fiona, Reed, Damiana, and other friends and family make this book work on many levels. A wonderful addition to any school or family library. 2004, Viking, Ages 12 to 16.
Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
I love the way Shinn's story line twists and turns. Everything that happens is the opposite of what you might think will happen, making the story very exciting. You just want to keep reading, and I could not put the book down. Readers who like fantasy and a book with a happy ending will enjoy it. VOYA Codes 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004, Viking, 240p., Ages 11 to 15.
Lillian Filliman, Teen Reviewer
The village of Tambleham, like most villages, has a Safe-Keeper, the person to whom all secrets can be told and kept in confidence forever. For Safe-Keeper Damiana, her most significant secret arrived in the form of a sleeping baby, handed off to her sister by the Safe-Keeper of the king while she herself was in labor with her first child. The two children, Reed and Fiona, are raised as brother and sister, even though the townspeople sometimes whisper of the king's bastard who resides among them. Visited regularly by Thomas the Truth-Teller and Isadora the Dream-Maker, the children grow up surrounded by love and good will, learning the lore that will determine their future vocations. Fiona learns the way of herbs, but is determined to be a Safe-Keeper, following in her mother's footsteps. Reed flits from apprenticeship to apprenticeship with skill and success, but his restless nature keeps him moving on to the next adventure. When Damiana takes ill, she finally releases all of her secrets to her sister before she dies. At 16, Fiona is called upon to take over as the village Safe-Keeper while Reed goes off to seek his fortune, returning home for ritual celebrations. Fiona's life follows the routine of the seasons until the king, desperate for a male heir to his throne, comes to Tambleham to find his lost son. Shinn skillfully weaves a tale of fantasy to rival the classics. Her characters are multi-dimensional, her language straightforward, and her story delightful. KLIATT Codes: JS*Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Penguin, Viking, 240p., Ages 12 to 18.
Gr 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 Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
In this lyrically written medieval fantasy, a Safe-Keeper in the village of Tambleham receives a newborn baby from a mysterious visitor, on the same night that she gives birth to a daughter. Safe-Keepers, found throughout the kingdom, listen to people's secrets and "understand silence." Damiana raises Fiona and Reed alone, but is part of a strong nurturing community made up of her sister, also a Safe-Keeper, Thomas the Truth-Teller, Elministra, a healer and herbalist with whom Fiona apprentices, and Isadora the Dream-Maker. In Shinn's vividly imagined world, everyone has a part to play, from the Safe-Keeper to the Truth-Teller, from the midwife to the undertaker, and the supernatural aspects of secrets, truths, wishes are woven into the fabric of everyday life. As Fiona grows up, she struggles to balance her desire to be a Safe-Keeper with her passion for justice. Reed too searches for who he is, stirred by his unknown parentage. The ending, with its revelations of true identity and hints of romance, is quite satisfying. A compelling, richly layered tale. (Fantasy. 12+)