The Minstrel's Daughter

by Linda Smith
ISBN: 155050309X

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A Review of: The Minstrel's Daughter
by M. Wayne Cunningham

Seeing the world through somebody else's eyes takes on a whole new eye-popping meaning in Alberta author Linda Smith's delightfully exciting first novel in the Songs of Freya series, a follow-up to her earlier Freyan Trilogy. Young readers -even older ones for that matter-who enjoyed the adventures of Wind Shifter, Sea Change and The Turning Time will get a kick out of this new story that takes place forty years after the first trilogy.
As a former children's librarian with a BLS from the University of Alberta and a credit in Writing for Children from Boston's Simmons College, Smith tells her story with imagination and generous portions of humour, tension and drama. Her story's 12-year-old heroine, Catrina Ashdale, or "Cat" to her friends and family, can't believe her wandering minstrel of a father abandoned her as a baby because her mother wouldn't marry him and face life on the road. Consequently, despite her love for her mom, Lianna, and grudging respect for her about-to-be stepfather, Kenton, she is determined to find the man who fathered her. First she needs to consult Master Weaver, a well-meaning old wizard, to get hold of a Finding Spell in order to narrow the search. Learning that she must search in the city of Freyall, she gathers her possessions, stows away on a boat and arrives in Freyall only to have her money stolen. She is left only with her prized tin flute, a reminder of her father, and her clothes most of which she is soon forced to sell as she lives homeless on the street.
To survive she becomes a busker and that's how she meets Garth, whose dedication to music upsets his grandfather Konrad Spellman's plans to have him follow in his footsteps as a wizard. When Cat and Garth meet the sparks start flying and the fun begins. Because grandfather Konrad is away, Garth substitutes for him in creating a Finding Spell to help Cat locate her elusive minstrel father. Since he isn't well versed in the intricacies of spell-making, Garth mumbles the wrong mumbo-jumbo and morphs the two-legged, fair-skinned Cat into a four-legged, fur bearing cat-a spell he doesn't know how to reverse. It's a tribute to author Smith's story telling spells that she's able to present the rest of the story so realistically through a cat's eyes without losing the requisite heart and humour.
A spell that goes awry isn't the only dilemma Cat and Garth face as they adjust to their new boy-cat relationship and new ways of communicating. She still has to find her dad and along the way they need to solve a mystery concerning the plot to overthrow-perhaps even kill-the Queen of Freya during a convention of wizards and a concert of musicians from the region. Coincidentally, they have to sort out the roles of Cat's father and Garth's grandfather in the plot-all intriguingly tense and exciting bits of business, especially with Cat loping ahead and Garth reluctantly dragging behind.
There's plenty of action in the story: the mix of wizards and musicians; the mix of extended families; the political plots; the spells, good, bad and ugly; the cat's eye view of Cat's world; Garth's family's suspicions about a cat's influence on his decision to become a musician instead of a wizard; and a final resolution for returning a cat to a Cat and laying the groundwork for the next book in the series, Cory's Song.
Smith has produced a spellbinding, lots-of-fun book with credible characters, human and animal. It's great entertainment and a great lead off for her new series. One might even say, "It's the cat's meow!"

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