Lene Kaaberbol, . . Holt, $16.95 (235pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-7541-0

Kaaberbol's multidimensional fantasy, first published in Danish and fluidly translated by the author, concerns a 10-year-old girl and her mother who both possess the "gift" of being able to see into a person's soul. Narrator Dina's mother is the town Shamer, able to look into a person's eyes and read their deepest secrets and shames. Often called upon to determine the guilt or innocence of a person suspected of a crime, the Shamer is summoned by Drakan, lord of Dunark Castle, to "read" his cousin, 17-year-old Nicodemus, who stands accused of three gruesome murders. She finds him innocent—but that's not the answer that Drakan is looking for. He seems convinced of Nicodemus's guilt; conveniently, the killings have left Drakan the heir to the throne, and the railroading that follows places both mother and daughter in peril. Dina's mother is soon sentenced to die (for being a false Shamer), and it is up to Dina and Nico to rescue her and remove the usurper from power. As Kaaberbol develops it, the idea of the Shamer carries deep moral and practical implications: echoes of religious hypocrisy ripple through the "false Shamer" accusation, and the story explores the idea that knowledge can be as dangerous as it is helpful. Dina becomes particularly winning because of her determination to use her gift in a more positive manner than the others before her. The first in the Shamer Chronicles series, this novel stands on its own and offers a satisfying conclusion even as it provides an intriguing setting and mythology for future adventures. Ages 11-up. (May)