Keeper of the Winds: Not for me, but perhaps for some teen readers

Keeper of the Winds by Jenna Solitaire & Russel DavisKeeper of the Winds by Jenna Solitaire & Russell Davis

The cover of my ARC of Keeper of the Winds (2020) shows it co-authored by Jenna Solitaire and Russell Davis. This edition is a reimagining and slight updating of a book originally published in 2006. Its author was Jenna Solitaire. Davis come up with the conceit of an imaginary author, narrating her own adventures as she discovers that she is the Guardian of a strange set of magical spirit boards, at least four of which control the elements. Now, fourteen years later, with a new publisher, Davis is revisiting the DAUGHTER OF DESTINY series and substantially rewriting them, although he says in his afterword that this one faces the fewest plot changes of the original quartet.

The series is marketed to YA, with a 19-year-old protagonist, as she discovers her supernatural abilities and interacts with the various boards. As Keeper of the Winds suggests, the first board Jenna discovers is the Board of the Winds. Jenna must learn to control it, while fighting off both the evil people bent on seizing the board for their own nefarious purposes and the good people who keep trying to tell her what to do.

After a prologue that follows a previous Guardian as she tries to free the Board from the Knights Templar, we meet Jenna in her small Ohio town of Miller’s Crossing. It is the funeral of Jenna’s grandfather, who raised her. Jenna’s parents died in a car accident when she was five, and her grandmother of cancer a year later. The power of the Guardians comes down the female line, but Jenna got no instruction from either her grandmother or her mother. After the funeral, Jenna decides it’s time to clean out the attic, as one does after the funeral of a beloved family member. She discovers and accidentally activates the Board, and moments later is battling a man who broke into her house to steal it. Within a few pages, we’ve met Jenna’s best friend Tom and his mysterious girlfriend Kristen, kindly Father Andrew who is trying to get her to come back to church, and Simon Monk, a mysterious, handsome friend of Father Andrew’s who says he works for the Vatican. Jenna takes an immediate dislike to Simon because he’s so arrogant and she hates that she can’t stop thinking about how handsome he is, so we know right where this relationship is going. In a typical but disappointing example of poor protagonist behavior in this kind of book, Jenna keeps shutting Simon down when he’s trying to tell her something important. Meanwhile, bad people make more and more aggressive attempts to snatch the board and Jenna. Jenna’s sleep is plagued with strange, vivid dreams (like the prologue) and the weather outside gets wilder and windier.

Keeper of the Winds by Jenna Solitaire & Russel Davis

Original version

Jenna’s narrative voice is persuasively young and slangy. (I wanted to write “breezy” but I resisted.) If there was an attempt to update the story, it was lightly done and a few things were missed. Jenna, for example, can’t stop commenting that Tom uses caller ID on his phone and greets her with “Hi, Jenna,” each time she calls. That’s a given now, isn’t it? Otherwise, the nature of the challenge keeps the story kind of timeless, at least in this first book. One of the action sequences, where Jenna is thrown into a freezing river, is quite powerful and dramatic. Beyond that, though, most of the scenes seem talky. Even the big dramatic standoff where we meet one of the major evil minions seems more talky than actiony.

Late in the story Simon drops the theory that something from somewhere else actually powers the boards. It could be demons (or it could be bunnies). This potential problem seems to get delivered a bit late in Keeper of the Winds for a story that, at times, acts like it’s a classic Good versus Evil struggle.

Aside from that, information and plot developments unfold smoothly and fairly fast here, making the book a quick read. I worry about a lack of introspection on the part of Jenna, after one of the vivid dream/vision sequences results in a cluster of actual twisters that devastate Miller’s Crossing and take lives. Jenna didn’t will the tornados into existence, but her connection with the board caused them. It’s surprising how little time Jenna spends thinking about the deaths of the twenty-three people.

Jenna is an active protagonist rather than a passive one, even if she does have to be a bit thick at times for the plot to work. The obvious romance here starts slowly; there are a few ribald jokes from Kristen, but the sexual content is PG until a startlingly steamy epilogue that comes out of nowhere. Younger teens might enjoy Keeper of the Winds. It does deal with death and loss in a realistic manner. For me, I found it a slight read. It didn’t leave me with a great desire to read the subsequent books, but this series found an audience in 2006 and there’s no reason to think it won’t again.

Published in February 2020. Originally published in 2006. My name is Jenna Solitaire and everything I thought I knew about myself, my family, and my future is wrong. My life is not my own. It never has been. I just didn’t know it―until now…Nineteen-year-old Jenna Solitaire has lost her grandfather, who was her only remaining family. Going through old family belongings in the attic, she discovers a trunk, and in it a planchette made of bone and an ancient wooden board scorched by fire and covered in strange symbols. Thinking only to connect with some element of her past, Jenna attempts to use it, and soon there is a voice whispering long-lost secrets in her mind. Secrets about her family, and the role handed down through generations of Solitaire women: Keeper of the Board. Thrust into a world she doesn’t understand, Jenna will begin an adventure that will ultimately take her around the world, but first, she must master the Board itself, even as she faces forces of greed and power – those who will stop at nothing to take the Board for themselves. As the Board conjures devastating storms, Jenna struggles to find her footing and determine who she can trust. Events spiral out of control, and Jenna fights to protect those she still believes in: Father Andrew, the family priest who has known her since she was born, her best friend, Tom, and his girlfriend, Kristen. And then there is Simon Monk, shrouded in mystery and connected somehow to Father Andrew and the Vatican itself, who appears to have her best interests in mind, but frightens Jenna with his intensity. Jenna must conquer her doubts, her fears, and take on the mantle of Keeper of the Board and the Daughter of Destiny, or leave the Earth itself in peril.

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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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