Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE GATHERER by Kit Trzebunia


by Kit Trzebunia

Pub Date: Feb. 27th, 2024
Publisher: Jack Frost Press

Trzebunia’s coming-of-age fantasy novel follows a gifted young woman as a prophecy sets political machinations in motion.

Peregrine is 12 winters old. Her father, Sir Walter, is one of the King’s Knights in the realm of Moran. It may not be a typical routine for a young lady, but Peregrine spends her mornings training with a weapons master named Roth. She is also skilled in the use of healing herbs, and she can tell when someone is lying. Perhaps most impressive of all, though, is her ability to communicate with animals. Despite such talents, Peregrine doesn’t get along with her disapproving stepmother. Not that Peregrine goes around advertising her abilities—she mostly talks to her father about such things. It is he who points out that, while she is indeed a rare person, “It is the rarest gem that carries the most value.” When Peregrine’s father vanishes, she is, of course, concerned; to complicate matters, after he disappears, a girl from the neighboring kingdom of Din Sul shows up in the Moran woods. The girl, Tianan, is confused about how she wound up in this location—particularly since Moran’s relations with Din Sul have been strained for years. Meanwhile, in Din Sul, the emperor is told of a prophecy that indicates the emergence of two important powers. While one of these powers would appear to be someone like a king, the other is more mysterious: the Gatherer of Creation. Regardless of who this Gatherer turns out to be, the emperor has plans to harness both powers so that he can one day take over the land of Moran.

The novel doles out quite a bit of information early in the text: Readers learn of Peregrine’s routines, her abilities with various animals, the difficulties with her stepmother, and the fun she has with her sister. As pleasant a character as Peregrine is, there’s not a whole lot of action to compel readers’ attention until her father disappears, nearly 100 pages into the story. Much of the heavy page count is given over to dialogue; when the characters talk, they tend to talk a lot (a typically verbose passage reads, “I am not ashamed to tell you that I am a nobody, from nowhere, hidden my whole life in the middle of a forest down at the tip of the kingdom”). Peregrine is, nevertheless, an endearing protagonist, and not necessarily a character whom readers might expect to lead a fantasy novel. Sure, she’s trained in combat, but healing and communicating are more her bailiwick; after all, she can help a tree’s health by touching it. As she gets older and her abilities increase, she’s able to lead readers further into the unknown. And the book has a great deal of the unknown, beyond Moran and even Din Sul. Later on, Peregrine laments, “Had I had even one day of inner peace since my father had disappeared all those years ago?” This lack of peace helps the story maintain continuous forward motion.

Though the tale is dense with dialogue, the unique protagonist makes for an engaging companion on the journey.