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My friends call me Elldee. And breaking the half century mark has been highly motivating: happy wife, mother, writer, teacher, day dreamer.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: The Spirit Child by Alison Naomi Holt

Holt's The Spirit Child is the first installment of a series of books that twist Native American spirit guides with feudal manors, strong female characters and realms in degrees of spiritual growth and power.  The storyline includes the involvement of actual walking, talking, and occasionally sarcastic guides in the form of owls, wolves, panthers, badgers, etc., working to maneuver the few spiritually awake humans to safety and teach them to negotiate an increasingly dangerous world due to a darker group of powerful animal spirits.

That sounds a bit like a mishmash of ideas, but it's a mix that had it an aroma would be described as delicious.  Bree Makena, Duchess of Danforth, is the main character, and she is ripe for change.  Heartbroken and determined to be alone and disconnected from society, she is ready to do battle with the first annoying individual she meets, but she is unwilling to watch a girl child be sold into slavery and certainly raped if no one steps in. Makena steps in, and life changes from that moment on.  The child turns out to be capable of seeing any spirit guide, not just her own, but she is as flawed and broken as Makena. The two travel more than just the rough territory of the lands they call home (or want to call home) as they deal with the fear and denial which keeps them from recognizing their guides and learning how to become part of society in ways they have yet to find appealing or even safe.

Makena and the child Kaiti have to not only figure out how to belong to each other but also how to belong to their spirit guides who are not in the least bit uncertain about how things should be going if only those stubborn humans would stop fighting their destinies.  Other characters also carry the story well, from long time friends, healer Becca and bathhouse owner Maura, to tribal leaders and royal families.  There are strong male characters as well and tribal elders who bring depth and meaning to much of the difficulties Makena and Kaiti face. Timur, Makena's dead husband, as the story progresses, is easy to accept as a person Makena might find impossible to face life without.  It is inevitable that one will get attached to several of the individuals Holt breathes into life in her writing as the reader steps smoothly in and out of the thoughts and concerns of a variety of supporting characters as well as the two main characters.

Arriving at the end of this book is a lot like it is in real life: few things are wrapped up in tidy bunches; much is left that needs to play out, and the trouble that was on the horizon is still lurking out there.  The difference is Makena has grown out of some of her troubles which is good because there are several more difficulties building up she is going to have to face if she wants to maintain life's new vision and new hope.

I enjoyed this book and view it as one I will probably reread, especially while I wait for the next book in the series to come out.  My main rule is if I anticipate reading a book again, its worth five stars.
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