When her mother dies, 15-year-old Keelie Heartwood's life completely changes. Of course it does. But it isn't just that her mother is gone forever—it's that she's forced to leave L.A., the place she's lived her whole life.
Now she's expected to live with her father, a man who has never had more contact with his daughter than sending the occasional gift. Not only does he live in the woods—Keelie suffers from a seriously irritating wood allergy—but he's also somewhat of a gypsy. He criss-crosses the country selling his furniture at Renaissance Faires (AKA, in Keelie's opinion, Geek Central). Within a day of her arrival, she's wearing the tackiest costume EVER, being constantly tormented by her father's cat (who makes Georgia Nicolson's Angus look angelic) and has noticed quite a few other people at the fair with the same pointy-ear birth defect as her. Good thing she has a plan to escape...
Tree Shepherd's Daughter had me hooked from the get-go. In the beginning, Keelie is understandably frustrated, cranky, tired, emotionally wrought-out and overwhelmed by all of the huge changes in her life. She continues to be all of those things throughout the book, but she also proves to be caring, bright, intuitive, witty and loyal. While I knew from minute one what the deal was from the title and the clues (Pointy ears! Gorgeously youthful looks! Incredible grace! An affinity for nature!), I didn't get frustrated with Keelie for not picking up on it sooner. I actually got the feeling that she knew pretty early on, but that she refused to believe it. What with the huge changes she was already dealing with, I couldn't really hold her denial against her.
Gillian Summers did an especially nice job of blending a teen angst-y drama and a story about a girl dealing with huge, huge loss and huge, huge change into an entertaining fantasy adventure. I did feel that the book wrapped up too quickly—a whole lot happened in the last thirty pages, and at that point the flow of the story didn't feel very organic. I didn't buy the romance, either—there wasn't much of a lead up to it at all and it just didn't feel right to me. But compared to how much I enjoyed the rest of the book, those issues are minor. I'll be reading Book Two ASAP.