Monday, August 13, 2007

The Truth-Teller's Tale (Sharon Shinn)

Twin sisters Adele and Eleda of the palindromic names are far from having identical personalities. But faster than you can say "Sweet Valley," The Truth-Teller's Tale takes you to the medieval countryside where Edela is a Truth-Teller, who is compelled to tell the truth when asked. Her sister Adele, on the other hand, is a Secret-Keeper, never betrays anything she hears in confidence. Not exactly Sweet Valley fare.

Young readers may find the plot likeable enough, despite the way it moves to a predictable denoument. Even with the additional complications brought by forbidden romances, arranged marriages, and mistaken identities, Truth-Teller offers no major surprises. But I find that its appeal lies in this simplicity. At the heart of it, Truth-Teller is a tale of two sisters growing up into their own women, making decisions on their own, and celebrating their differences. Another plus is that the rural setting of Merendon and their customs are well-realized, so reading this is a truly relaxing experience. All you'll need is a wide meadow and a river that runs through it. I only wish that the novel had dealt more with the twins' struggling with their roles, especially at the beginning, when they were only starting to come into their own. True, the moral dilemma emerged towards the climax, but I'm of an opinion that readers would relate to the twins more if they showed us their vulnerability early on.

Fans of Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl and Cynthia Voigt's Jackaroo may want to give Truth-Teller a try. It's not as action-packed as the other books, but all three emanate with the same spirit of discovery and coming-of-age in a medieval world.

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