Book Review: Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Posted June 20, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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Firekeeper's Daughter

Firekeeper's Daughter

by Angeline Boulley

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. on March 16, 2021
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Representation: BIPOC, Indigenous, Native, Own Voices Author
Content Warnings: Addiction, Alcohol, Blood, Car Accident, Death, Death of Parent, Drug Abuse, Drug Use, Grief, Gun Violence, Infidelity, Kidnapping, Medical Content, Murder, Pregnancy, Racism, Rape, Sexual Assault, Toxic Relationship, Violence

Rating: ★★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.

The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.

Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she'll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

 

Firekeeper’s Daughter is everything I hoped it would be.  This contemporary mystery set in Sault St. Marie (that’s “soo” not “salt”) deliveries a realistic world, an interesting story, and memorable characters.  Boulley’s debut is formidable.  She builds a story with an intriguing rotation of characters, a crime that is familiar but explored from a different perspective, and a narrative that keeps the reader engaged.  I read this book slowly and enjoyed it – if you stop reading this review right now, know that I recommend this book highly.  It’s wonderful.

Sault St. Marie and Sugar Island are beautifully crafted.  Boulley is from the area, and she wove her love into the little details about her home.  The blending and failings both of culture and community bring the story to life.  Boulley graciously shares Native culture throughout the book, sharing the beauty of the people alongside the prejudices big and small they have to live with.  One of my favorite parts of Firekeeper’s Daughter was the way Anishinaabemowin was folded into the storytelling.  I really want to reread this book in its audio format so I can listen to the language and hear the pronunciations.

I’m not sure why, but I didn’t expect this book to involve so much hockey.  I’m not a sports person as a rule, but for some reason, I love hockey.  I really enjoyed that aspect of the world building – for me, at least, it was something different that I rarely read in books.  It was nice to see a town come together around a sport other than football, even though the interactions were not always wholesome.

While I felt most the Supes – even important ones like Levi and Stormy – were uninteresting and a bit flat, I really liked Daunis and several other characters.  Daunis lives in a constant state of struggle and balance.  She loves both of her parents and respects the Ojibwe culture even though she knows she is not entirely welcome because of her mixed heritages.  She still practices Ojibwe customs and speaks some of the language.  I loved her determination, her naivety, her intelligence, her anger, and her love. Bt our protagonist isn’t the only good character.  I loved Granny June and the Elders, and I loved Auntie and the girls.

There were scenes in Firekeeper’s Daughter that made me smile, scenes that made my heart ache, and scenes that made me smile.  I learned from this book: small things (like the healing abilities of the human liver), and big things (like berry fasts).  A lot about the plot was predictable, but I felt more drawn to Daunis’s own journey than the investigation, so it didn’t bother me at all.

All in all, this is a fantastic book.  I hope we continue to see more from Boulley and other Native authors.  Five out of five stars from me, and I will certainly be reading it again.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★

5 Star Rating

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Firekeeper’s Daughter Stays on The Shelf

This is a book I have already pledged to read again.  I’ll read it in hardcopy again for sure, but I want to listen to the audiobook next, I think.  I just really want to hear the language, and spoken by someone who knows how to pronounce the words.

Firekeeper’s Daughter has more than earner its place in my collection.

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If the FBI asked you for help on a case, would you do it?  I’m not sure I could – I’m not very brave.  I guess it would depend on the case!  What about you?  Let me know in the comments!

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