BookBrowse Reviews Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

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Firekeeper's Daughter

by Angeline Boulley

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley X
Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley
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  • Published:
    Mar 2021, 496 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Althea Draper
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An Ojibwe teen must uncover the truth behind the new strain of drug that is ravaging her community.

Angeline Boulley's young adult novel Firekeeper's Daughter follows 18-year-old Daunis — biracial member of the Ojibwe tribe, former ice hockey star and traditional herbal medicine savant — as she witnesses the horrifying murder of her best friend at the hands of her meth-addicted ex-boyfriend. Due to her unique knowledge and connections, she is soon recruited by the FBI to assist in an ongoing investigation into a new strain of crystal meth that is devastating her community. Tasked with looking into local medicines and how they could be influencing the new strain, she fears that the information she uncovers could lead to the demonization of her culture and even risk the future of Ojibwe herbal medicine. Daunis must figure out how far she is willing to go.

From the beginning, Ojibwe culture plays a significant role in the novel. Not only does it create a vibrant and lush background for the events taking place around Daunis — as we see her taking part in the rituals and celebrations of Ojibwe life — but her heritage and her role in the tribe play a major part in the investigation itself. Ojibwe spiritual beliefs offer her extra insight into clues that may help her, and her knowledge of herbal medicine as well as her understanding of the land — and the politics surrounding it — prove valuable.

Alongside these positive and beneficial aspects of Ojibwe culture, Boulley tackles the less pleasant realities of indigenous life head-on. Throughout the book, we witness Daunis experiencing anti-indigenous microaggressions from those around her. She and a friend even create a "microaggression bingo" game that shows just how common such incidents are. Boulley also includes discussion of the systemic racism indigenous people face from the government and other legal entities, including the police. Furthermore, the devastating impact of meth addiction in indigenous communities, particularly in the early 2000s when the book is set, is central to the plot.

Daunis is a proud Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) who is nevertheless somewhat on the outside looking in, as her Ojibwe and white backgrounds cause people of either identity to dismiss her based on her differences. Despite this, she is heavily involved in her tribe's culture and takes great joy in her heritage. She frequently spends time with and seeks the help of her Elders. However, it is refreshing to see that Daunis is not a perfect person. For example, she struggles with internalized misogyny and scrambles to "not be like those other girls," and instead be just "one of the guys." As a result, she sometimes misses significant clues that may point her in the right direction, and we see the devastating effect that her oversights have both on the investigation and her personal life.

Jamie, a new recruit of the local hockey team that Daunis' brother plays on, is another compelling character — appearing out of nowhere and stepping into a prestigious spot on the team, immediately being adored by girls yet staying true to a mysterious girl back home. Daunis finds herself intrigued by him, yet it is evident to her that he is hiding much about himself. As the reader, we find out more about Jamie at the same time Daunis does. Getting to piece together who he is, bit by bit, is just as exciting as learning about the investigation that the pair are embroiled in.

Despite being almost 500 pages, the novel never drags, but keeps a slow and sustained pace. This adds an extra layer to what would otherwise just be your average thriller, as it allows the reader to truly digest every new piece of information that comes to light and become fully immersed in the world of the book. However, the faster-paced, more adrenaline-filled chapters will have you on the edge of your seat.

All in all, Firekeeper's Daughter is an exciting debut novel headed by a complex female lead that is sure to intrigue you. The meandering but steady pace contrasted with occasional dynamic, action-filled sequences offers a sensational reading experience that will have Angeline Boulley at the top of your authors-to-watch list.

Reviewed by Althea Draper

This review is from the Firekeeper's Daughter. It first ran in the May 5, 2021 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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