Talk about an anticipated 2021 debut! I have been so excited for Firekeeper’s Daughter since it was announced. And now that I’ve read it, I’m absolutely obsessed. It’s one of those books I told myself I would pace myself, and then finished in one evening. Keep reading this book review to read my full thoughts.
As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.
The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.
Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.
Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: racism, rape, sexual assault, colorism, drug addiction
Firekeeper’s Daughter is a book that swept me away. I was pacing myself, minding my own business, until at about 60% when I needed to finish the whole thing in one evening. Oops. There are so many elements I loved about this ownvoices debut like the feelings of Daunis feeling split between the pieces of her family. Boulley tells the story of Daunis feeling like her identity is controlled and defined by other people. The complications in the system while also knowing the truth in our bones.
Racism and the Past
Firekeeper’s Daughter doesn’t shy away from the trauma of the past. The generations of cruelty, racism, and crimes committed against the Indigenous community. One of my favorite elements is Daunis’ family. It’s complex, but full of so much tenderness both in our biological relations, and the found family, her community. Boulley tackles the notions of “one of the good ones” as well as questioning how we seek justice. Does it take external help or do we have to root out the problems in our community from the inside?
How it can feel to be isolated from our community, from those who are supposed to foster us, teach us, and hold us accountable. Boulley’s debut also examines the intersection of love and need. How we can use people as excuses, promises, blackmail, a means to an end. – but it’s not love. We can live our whole lives assuming someone is one way, and then in a moment everything can change. What do we do when realize justice might not be served? That there are times when it doesn’t do enough. When crimes go unanswered?
Firekeeper’s Daughter is a rich and complex debut. Daunis is a STEM loving, determined, and clever main character. She’s also struggling with her own grief, her identity, and the love she feels for her community. Don’t even get me started on how much I loved the mystery/crime/detective vibes!! I am so glad I was able to read this early so I could not only prove myself right, but also tell you all how much I loved it.