The Tree Shepherd’s Daughter — A Book Review

The Tree Shepherd’s Daughter
Gillian Summers

I must be in a mood for reading fantasy – and especially about elves and magic.  I have just finished another Young Adult novel, thoroughly enjoying it.

The Story …

The story takes place at the site of a Renaissance Faire in Colorado.  Fifteen-year-old Keelie Heartwood is sent to Colorado to live with her father after the death of her mother. She is of the belief that her father abandoned her mother and her to live like a gypsy taking no interest in her. As the story begins, it seems that perhaps Keelie has a good reason for feeling the way she does. Her father is preoccupied with the running of the Faire. When he tells her that she came a week earlier than expected and he isn’t prepared for her arrival, it seems that it may be an excuse. But as time goes on, she comes to like the Faire and gaining some responsibility and making friends helps. She slowly softens toward her father and when she happens across a box of photographs — recent photos of her as well as photos from the past — she realizes that her father really had kept up with her activities while she was growing up.

In this story, like Simner’s Bones of Faerie, nature takes on a life of its own.  The trees talk and there is a whole community of Elves that keeps to itself.  Little stick men warn Keelie of impending danger; a dwarf or troll call a “Red Cap” is out to harm Keelie; and her father’s cat, Knot, appears to enjoy “teasing” Keelie.  At one point, when the Red Cap is running around the camp, she sees Knot in the brush decked-out in boots brandishing a sword!  We meet a real cast of characters though out the pages and Keelie begins to relate to each of them during her stay.  She learns quickly who she can trust and who she cannot.

Many things that Keelie says and thinks made me laugh out loud – especially when it involves the cat.  There are some dangers to her, as well; the community of elves for instance doesn’t like her because her father is a full-blooded elf and her mother is a human.  This makes Keelie a half-breed which in their world is something of a travesty. This prejudice is highlighted when they discover that she has a special purpose and ability that they feel should only be reserved for a full-blooded elf.

An especially fun part is that Keelie has a sensitivity to wood.  When brushing her hand against a wooden table or fence or post, she can tell what kind of wood it is and where it came from.  So through out the book we read something like:  Keelie brushed her hand across the table top to pick up the paper. (Oak, North Dakota).

My Take …

This is a fine story suitable for the high school reader and older.  The story line may be a bit complicated for the younger reader who may have trouble following along and understanding the feelings Keelie is going through.  There is also a very small section that really is not designed for the younger reader.  Near the beginning of the book, Keelie goes to a party at which there is marijuana use and alcohol use.  She sits with a member of the Faire and he touches her breast.  She thinks this is thrilling and can’t wait to tell her friends about it.  Probably not appropriate for all readers.

The author, however, handled this correctly when Raven, Keelie’s friend, announced that she was only fifteen years old at which point the men backed off and Keelie was strictly off-limits for any kind of similar advances through out the rest of the book (although the innuendos are there).

I was pleased to see the way the grown-ups in the book were portrayed – especially Keelie’s father.  So often parents are written to be dolts or idiots or mean, but Ms. Summers doesn’t do this.  Yes, they have quirks and their own personalities that are humorous at times and some seem to be stand-offish, but they always come back to being caring people – at least those that he author wants to be caring.

My Recommendation …

I enjoyed The Tree Shepherd’s Daughter.  It is another YA book, but that’s okay.  It is okay for an adult to read and enjoy a YA or juvenile book.  The reading level is quite low, so it is a fast read, but there is a certain creativity about it that is not often found in adult-level books.

I found Keelie and Raven and a couple of other characters to be well-rounded.  In a novel, not all the characters can be three dimensional – most have to be less; otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see the forest for the trees.  Keelie’s father was a bit flat for most of the novel, but he gradually came to be more fully formed, and in the end he was a real person who cares for his daughter and overjoyed at her presence.

The book is a fantasy, so keep that in mind as you read it.  There is a delight in being able to go to a world where trees talk and people can relate to animals and bugs and earthworms and birds.  Besides, there certainly isn’t anything wrong with wanting to get away from the cares of today’s world now and then.

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