By Gill Arbuthnott
Published by Chicken House
ISBN 978 1 05294 94 7
Nyssa never feels sorry for herself. She knows she is lucky to be living the life she has, even though her days are filled with hard work and questions. Nyssa doesn't know who she is.
When she was three or four she was abandoned on the steps of an inn, The Drowned Boy. She had nothing but the clothes on her back, and was unable to tell anyone who she was, or where she came from. When no one in the village claimed her, she was taken in by the kindly innkeeper and his wife.
Nyssa has grown up knowing nothing of her origins, and wondering, constantly, why she was abandoned. Since the death of the innkeeper's wife, Nyssa has taken over the cooking and housekeeping duties at The Drowned Boy.
Like all the other people on her island in the Archipelago, Nyssa bears a tattoo on her arm. These traditional tattoos are clan signs that go back centuries, and they show who people are and where they belong in the Archipelago. But Nyssa's tattoo is different from everyone else's. No one can explain it, and Nyssa just accepts the strange mark on her skin as being a part of who she is or might be.
Scottish author Gill Arbuthnott creates a very believable fantasy world in the opening chapters of The Keepers' Daughter. The island where Nyssa lives is full of secrets and unanswered questions, and there are dark shadows and mysterious characters around every corner. Atmosphere and character are strong motivators in this carefully crafted novel: Nyssa is an attractive heroine whose world is obviously about to be rocked. Tension is very much to the fore as the story begins and the central mystery builds.
Nyssa's steady life is changed forever when one of the regular customers at The Drowned Boy, Marius, tells her that he is her uncle. It seems odd that this man, whom she has known for years has never mentioned this connection before. But Marius tells his very strange story, and Nyssa is overwhelmed. He says that, unless she immediately flees the island, a dangerous stranger will come out of the sea mists to kill her.
And now is the time for complete truth. Marius tells Nyssa that she is a descendant of the Keepers, a peaceful clan who sought knowledge and white magic for the common good. A decade ago, the island where the Keepers lived was attacked by the power-seeking Shadowmen clan, and the Keepers were slaughtered. But Nyssa survived the attack. Alaric, the present leader of the Shadowmen, has heard rumours of Nyssa's existence. He is determined to hunt her down, and wipe her out.
The Keepers' Daughter is a powerful, riveting book that will thrill readers who would never dream of picking up a fantasy novel. For fans of The Hunger Games, still the book series du jour, this is a gem that should not be missed.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com