Author: Sharon Shinn
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Kellen's mother is convinced that Kellen was a boy right after she was born, and she insists on treating her daughter like a son. Kellen doesn't particularly mind this, as she finds out that she gets to have advantages of being both a girl and a boy. When the teacher convinces her mother to let Kellen go to school, Kellen meets Gryffin, a boy who, like her, is not accepted by the rest of the village. They become fast friends, growing up together and eventually working together and meeting fascinating people. But that changes when the Dream-Maker loses her power and names another Dream-Maker - a declaration that will change Kellen's and Gryffin's lives and challenge their friendship. Both of them have to look deep within themselves to find out who they are, and who they want to be.
As coming-of-age stories go, this one is really good. We follow Kellen from ten years old to sixteen, seeing her slowly realize what she wants and accept who she is. Both Kellen's and Gryffin's development is full of depth and color, and flows so smoothly. The way they grow into themselves is real and true-to-life - well, except for the magic part!
The feel and texture of the narrative struck me as so fitting, because I actually felt like I was in this tiny village, with ignorant, uncultured people, and when the story took us into the capital city, I felt the difference in sophistication. I think it takes a great deal of talent to create the effect of that movement from country bumpkin to city slick, and Sharon Shinn does that beautifully.
The plot kept me guessing for a good part of the book. I have to say, I was shocked when I found out who was the new Dream-Maker! I expected someone different entirely. One thing I'd say, though, is that although I didn't feel dissatisfied when reading the book, I did notice that there didn't seem to be a clear motivation or goal that the characters were working toward, and the ending was a big surprise because I didn't know the story was even heading in that direction.
Still, I like the book, the way I was drawn into the characters' lives, the weirdness of it all, and the way Kellen and Gryffin make lives for themselves.