The Safe-Keeper’s Secret: Interesting idea, weak plot

book review Sharon Shinn Safe-Keepers The Safe-Keeper's SecretSharon Shinn The Safe-Keeper's Secret fantasy book reviewsThe Safe-Keeper’s Secret by Sharon Shinn

Safe-Keepers can be trusted to never reveal a secret. So it’s no surprise that when a royal bastard needs to be hidden, a Safe-Keeper would be the logical place to hide the child. When the royal messenger who left the infant in the dark of night with the Safe-Keeper is found dead by his own hand a few miles away, the secret identity of the baby boy who was left behind becomes more of an open secret in the village. The Safe-Keeper decides to raise the child with her own daughter who was also born that night. But what happens when the King can’t have any more children, and starts looking for the child who may be his son?

In The Safe-Keeper’s Secret, Sharon Shinn develops an interesting idea. There are people in this society who are responsible for keeping secrets until they need to be told, people who have a mythical ability to know and tell the truth, and people whose presence grants the dreams of others. One of the things about any system of magic is that it should come with a cost. Dream-Makers have lives of sorrow and challenge, Truth-Tellers are generally feared and unwelcome, but the Safe-Keepers don’t seem to have that same cost, other than having to keep horrible secrets. It seems a little unbalanced, though that may be because their powers are the weakest.

The idea is intriguing, and I liked the development of the characters, but the plot is a little weak, especially the ending that wraps up all the different story lines in about 15 pages so neatly that Martha would call it a good thing. It sort of felt like she was only allowed to write a certain number of pages, and got so carried away that she had to slap an ending on as quickly as possible. The idea of an otherwise normal society with these three magical characters is interesting enough that I’ll seek out other books in THE SAFE-KEEPERS series — I believe they are shared world rather than character — to see what other stories unfold.


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RUTH ARNELL is a retired professor of political science in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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2 comments

  1. I’m only joking a little bit when I saw I wonder if she started the book during National Novel Writing Month, hit 50,000 words and then decided to wrap it up.

  2. Sarah /

    Ouch, I choked on my water when I saw the line “Martha would call it a good thing”. You are just lucky you don’t owe me a new keyboard.

    I hate those types of endings where the authors seem to have hit a word/page limit and have to shove all the rest of the details into ten pages or less. I never can tell whether it’s a page limitation or the author just got bored with their characters/story and wrapped it up.

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