Title: Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves – Book Three: Valley of Shadows
Author: Jodi Lea Stewart
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
An adventurous mystery for young adults, Valley of Shadows is the third book in Jodi Lea Stewart’s trilogy, Silka, the Girl of Many Scarves. Building on the first two books, this one also revolves around the main character Silki and her best friend Birdie. Although this is a continuation of the girls’ earlier exploits, it isn’t necessary to have read the first two installments in order to easily follow this one.
Author Stewart provides readers with a quick-paced Nancy Drew type of detective tale for the twenty-first century, infusing the mystery with Navajo and Japanese language and lore. This allows us to learn about the traditions of ancient cultures, including living conditions, food, and spiritual beliefs in an entertaining yet educational way. At no time does the author talk down to readers, with the language level being appropriate for young adults, while at the same time offering an opportunity for increased vocabulary.
There are many twists and turns in the drama of Silki’s life while she sets out to find a thief who stole a beloved horse. Inadvertently, she solves other conundrums along the way. If there were to be one setback for some readers in following the story, it would be the many changes in the action, with swift switches from scene to scene. However, it is this kind of quick pace and variety that generally harnesses a young adult reader’s attention to keep them reading. Each part of the book, and each chapter, offers new situations that advance the plot so that we want to know what happens next.
Both characters, Silki and Birdie, are well developed, with believable, charming dimensions. Silki has a clear voice and, although wise and considerate for her age, she’s playful, too. Other characters in the story, good and bad, are also given their own nuances and behaviors, making them believable.
The plot of Valley of Shadows progresses in a plausible way, stretching the imagination with vivid imagery, but not so much as to require that we accept unimaginable connections. For example, perceived ghosts are introduced as easily as living characters. We don’t know if they are real or “shadows,” but they intrigue us so that we want to find out.
Stunning descriptions of the scenery of the American Southwest make the settings come to life. Additionally, a few sketches are provided throughout. A map of the territory at the beginning of the book also helps readers visualize the locations of the characters as they move about.
Family matters and a crush on a boy play into the story, things that most young readers can identify with. Everyday life mingles with mystery, adding to the believability of the story.
With bookstores’ shelves loaded with so many young adult novels that seem the same, this one stands out from the stack. Although it’s intended for the young, Valley of Shadows is a lively read for those who were once young, as well. Engaging, enchanting, and enlightening, it reminds all of us, at any age, what it’s like to be full of energy, love, and hope. Jodi Lea Stewart has gifted readers with another gem, one that makes us sorry to turn the last page and see these characters leave our lives. They will linger, however, in our hearts for a long time to come.
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