The thirteenth child conceived of miserable Irish exiles, Katie O’Toole dreams of a different life. Little does she know that someone far away is dreaming of her.
In 1747, savages raid her family home, and seventeen-year-old Katie is taken captive. Syawa and Hector have been searching for her, guided by Syawa’s dreams. A young Holyman, Syawa believes Katie is the subject of his Vision: the Creature of Fire and Ice, destined to bring a great gift to his people. Despite her flaming hair and ice-blue eyes, Katie is certain he is mistaken, but faced with returning to her family, she agrees to join them. She soon discovers that in order to fulfill Syawa’s Vision, she must first become his Spirit Keeper, embarking on an epic journey that will change her life—and heart—forever.
I love stories of frontier life and the American West. Throw in a European woman falling in love with her Native American captor, and I'm totally there. So I was really looking forward to reading The Spirit Keeper. It's hard to go into much detail about plot without giving anything away, so I'll let the back cover blurb speak for itself and tell you how the story affected me. I was drawn to Katie right away. Her life before being captured (or rescued, depending on how you look at it) is vividly recreated in her memories as she compares and contrasts her old life with her new, and throughout the story, her emotions, particularly her keen sense of being unloved and unwanted, and then her joy and uplifting as those old fears were conquered, were living, tangible things.
The story kept me on the edge of my seat, burning through the pages to figure out what Syawa's vision entailed and what Katie's special gift for his people would be, and I was both pleasantly surprised and then somewhat disappointed at the twists and turns the story took as more of the vision was revealed because it ended up being not quite what I was expecting (nor what Katie was expecting either), and I was left feeling like the story could have gone much deeper. I know that seems odd to say of a story all about the power of dreams and visions and spiritual connections, and I can't quite put my finger on it, but it just feels like an opportunity was missed for a more profound message. The novel is on the shorter side, so more time certainly could have been spent exploring the central themes in more detail, and I would have enjoyed reading it. I wanted more of Katie and her companions. And while Katie really struggled all of her previous life and in the beginning of this journey, I couldn't help but feel that some things happened too easily for her toward the end. The Spirit Keeper strikes me as being more like a dressed up historical romance--which is totally fine by me, I love 'em! I say this so that those who aren't into romance are aware. And on another note, I was not bothered at all by the historical language and spellings, but there were a few anachronisms that will probably catch the eye of devoted historical fiction readers.
But overall, this emotional journey really put me through the wringer. I laughed, I cried, I sighed in contentment. The characters are very well drawn and the description and depictions of Native American beliefs, customs, and rituals were mesmerizing, as was watching Katie's transformation from a downtrodden, browbeaten farm girl to a strong and fearless--and loved--warrior. The Spirit Keeper is a quick and intense read and should appeal to anyone who loves historical fiction with a strong romantic element. I'm looking forward to more from this author, especially since there is plenty of room for a sequel!
My Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
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