The Shamer's Daughter by Lene Kaaberbol is Book 1 of the four book Shamer Chronicles, originally published in Danish. In the U.S., only the first two books, The Shamer's Daughter and The Shamer's Signet, are out.
The Plot: Like her mother, ten-year-old Dina is a Shamer. When a Shamer looks you in the eyes, you relive all that you have ever done that you are ashamed of; and the Shamer instantly knows these secrets. It doesn't matter if you stole something, were mean to your brother, or angry at a teacher: if it's something which causes you shame, the Shamer knows. With one look in your eyes. Needless to say, when people meet a Shamer, they keep their eyes down. No-one wants to voluntarily look a Shamer in the eyes. Dina finds this gift more of a curse -- who wants to be friends with a Shamer?
A terrible murder has happened in a nearby town and Dina's mother, The Shamer, needs to go to uncover the truth. Dina's mother doesn't return when she should, and Lord Drakan comes personally to fetch Dina to help her mother. Then Dina learns the truth: the "help" is to try to blackmail Dina's mother into naming the wrong man as killer. Dina finds herself caught in intrigue and politics as she tries to find a way to save herself and rescue her mother.
The Good: This is a great fantasy, and despite Dina's age (10), middle school kids will also like it. I don't know if it's because Dina has a gift, or because the book is Danish, but Dina is an old ten year old. This isn't a "little kids" fantasy. People are nasty and brutal; Dina and her mother are in real danger, and that danger is described, from murder attempts to bloodthirsty dragons.
TS'sD is sophisticated; what causes shame? If you are ashamed of something, does that mean you are guilty of something? Can someone do something bad, yet feel no shame?
Dina is an extremely likeable character. She is resourceful; she is brave; yet she also has faults, such as her own mixed feelings about being a Shamer.
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