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Literature / The Shamer Chronicles

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The Shamer Chronicles is a series of children's fantasy novels written by the Danish author Lene Kaaberboel. There are four books in total: The Shamer's Daughter, The Shamer's Signet, The Serpent's Gift and The Shamer's War. The books are about Dina Tonerre who has unwillingly inherited her mother's Gift: the ability to elicit shamed confessions from even the most hardened wrong-doers, simply by looking into their eyes. Starting with the second book, her older and completely normal brother Davin becomes the second point-of-view character.

The story starts with Dina's mother being called to Dunark Castle to elicit a confession from the seventeen year old heir to the throne who is blamed for committing a bloody triple murder. Dina's mother promises to return as fast as she can, but the next day comes and she is not showing up. Which is when a yet another person comes from Dunark and takes Dina with him, telling her that Dina's mother needs her help.

In Denmark, the series is very popular and influential. Many young people credit it as one of the only books they've enjoyed reading, or the book that first got them into Fantasy or books in general. The theater that made The Musical have said that this is the reason they wanted to turn it into a musical.

The first two books were eventually adapted into live action films, which were respectively released in 2015 and 2019.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Ebnezer does not approve of Nico's dislike of violence - and does approve of his older son bullying Nico.
  • Afraid of Blood: Nico because he sat with his family's blood on his hands and clothing for days. He wasn't alloewd to clean himself before Dina came.
  • The Alcoholic: Nico. This is why it's so easy for Drakan to convince everyone, even Nico, that he comitted the murders.
  • Angry Mob Song: The Musical has two. "Dommen" is a Burn the Witch! type, while "Skidenstad" is more of a mix between the two types.
  • Anti-Hero: Sezuan is either this or Anti-Villain. Even Lene Kaaberbøl isn't sure.
  • Bastard Bastard: Drakan, who is Ebenezer's bastard son and the villain of the series.
  • Berserk Button: Implying Rose might have stolen something or mentioning where she grew up are her's.
    • Hurting children is Nico's, likely because of his abusive upbringing.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Unsurprisignly, as the books are meant for 10-12 year old kids.
    • The first book is very much Black-and-White Morality, but the story becomes a bit more grey in the later books. The third book could even be said to be about Dina learning that the world isn't always like this, as although her father has done questionable things, he's not evil as her mother claimed.
  • Big Brother Bully:
    • Rose's half-brother, Aun, beats her, tries to make her steal for him and blames her for everything.
    • Nico's older brother, Ludovic, used to mock Nico him for his lack of interest in and skill at traditionally masculine disciplines, e.g. calling him "Nicoline".
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Taking care of Melli seems second nature to Davin, and Dina clearly looks up to him in the first book.
      • Especially clear in "Vær ikke bange" where he reassures Melli by reminding her she has her big brother with her.
    • Nico towards Dina and the girl he teaches in The Serpent's Gift.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Melussina and Callan. Though downplayed as it isn't mentioned until Davin figures it out in The Shamer's War
  • Burn the Witch!: It's mentioned that people have started burning shamers in the Lowlands.
  • Compelling Voice: Only those who drink dragon blood can disobey the Compelling Voice of a shamer.
  • Deuteragonist: Parts of the series from book 2 onwards are told from Davin's perspective.
  • Disappeared Dad: Melussina's kids have two different dads, and none of them is around. Until Sezuan shows up in The Serpent's Gift and Rikert is revealed to be Davin and Melli's in The Shamer's War.
  • Dub Name Change: A few examples, even though the author translated it personally:
    • Rose is Rosa in the Danish version.
    • Karmiana is Carmian.
  • Duel to the Death The unfinished duel between Davin and Ivain Laklan, and the duel between Nik and Drakan, with villain taunting and all.
  • Determinator: Rose is willing to walk mile after mile with a heavy backpack to get what she wants.
  • Dream Weaver: Those who have the Serpent's Gift can make people see anything when playing on their special flutes. Melussina are terrified of them, and they serve as something of a foil to Shamers. Shamers uncover the truth, those with the Serpent's Gift weave lies.
    • Dina has both Shamer abilities and the Serpent's Gift, which makes her very powerful. She has the Serpent's Gift from her father, Sezuan, who comes from a family where many have it.
  • Drowning His Sorrows: Nico, mostly in The Shamer's Daughter.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Ludovic, Nico's brother, called him "Nicoline" to make fun of him for not being masculine.
    • Drakan uses it as a taunt in "Dommen (Reprise)."
  • Emotion Bomb: Dina and her mother can make people feel buried in shame by looking them in the eyes.
  • Evil Matriarch: Sezuan's mother is one, according to Melussina. She controls the family with a firm fist, and apparently instructed Sezuan to have a child with Melussina specifically to see if it would result in a child with both Shamer abilities and the Serpent's gift.
  • Evil Is Hammy: In the musical:
    Dama Lizea: Let me help you... DIE!
  • Father, I Don't Want to Fight: Nico, which is why his father disliked him so much.
  • Gilded Cage: After Dina had been captured in The Shamer's Signet, she was kept in one of these.
  • Heroic Bastard: All of Melussina's kids and Rose are born out of wedlock and they constitue most of the heroes of the series.
  • Honor Before Reason: Davin is like this a lot, and still have shades of it after his Character Development.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass: Davin spends a lot of the second book lamenting that he isn't badass and is always known as his mom's son and not his own man. He does a lot of swordtraining and hunting in an attempt to become more manly as well as strong enough to protect his family.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Dina have a hard time getting friends, because people don't want to look into her eyes. Wich leads to the below.
    • The song "Alle kan vel trænge til en ven" ("Everyone can need a friend") in The Musical.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Dina would love to be normal and play with other girls the way she used to when she was younger.
    • The first book is a lot about how she comes to accept herself and her abilities and she've largely grown out of it in the Shamer's Signet where she feels a bit wrong without her abilities.
  • I Want to Be a Real Man: Davin. See I Just Want to Be Badass above, as Davin's idea of a badassness is very mixed up with his idea of masculinity in the second book.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: In The Shamer's Signet, Dina is forced to use her Shamer powers on anyone her captor sees fit, for trivial things. If she refuses, he'll kill Tavis, the random kid who was with her when she was kidnapped.
  • La Résistance: A poorly trained group of a few hundred men that hides in the woods and plans to somehow damage Drakan's army
  • Lean and Mean: Dama Lizea, Drakan's mother who set him on the path to villainy, is described as looking like a skeleton.
  • Magic Music: Those with Serpent's gift can weave illusions and mind control people by playing a flute.
  • Non-Action Guy: Nico doesn't like swords. Or violence. He feel he has to look past that in The Shamer's War though
  • No Eye in Magic: To use their abilities fully, a shamer has to make eye contact, but trained shamer's can use their voice too, but it doesn't work as well.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Black-Arse's real name, Allin, is only mentioned a couple of times.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Would be nothing more than just oversized reptiles if not for their blood having... unusual properties.
  • Parental Incest: Not present in the books, but due to Nico's brother being Adapted Out and combined with the character of Ebnezer in The Film of the Book, Adela is Nico's stepmother, and the backstory with Nico and Adela's affair is kept, making the whole thing fairly squicky. Additionally, a drunk Nico is seen delivering a "Take That!" Kiss to his abusive father.
  • Perception Filter: One of the abilities Sezuan and Dina have, as part of the Serpent's Gift.
  • Pretty Boy: Davin is described as being very slender and looking like a wood fairy, just like Melussina.
  • Room 101: The Serpent's Gift featured a room that was covered head to toe in carvings of faces that would whisper the worst things you could imagine to you - remind you of horrible things you have done or play on your insecurities until you were driven mad.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Davin is the red to Dina's and Nico's blue.
  • Smart Ball: The author seems to try her hardest to prevent Fridge Logic moments, which often results in the 11 year old Dina suddenly doing genius things, and then reverting to being a normal little girl.
  • Shaming the Mob: A quite literal example, as Dina in a moment of Heroic Resolve manages to use her powers on the entire crowd that has gathered to see her mother's execution. The crowd goes from cheering on the executioners to first falling quiet, then demanding that the execution is stopped, before finally openly rebelling against Drakan.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Nico, who doesn't want to fight which makes him gender non-conforming by his society's standards and Davin, who is eager to become a warrior until he understands what that entails, at least.
  • Slowly Slipping Into Evil: This is what Melussina fears will happen to Dina, if she gets too used to using the Serpent's gift.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Lene Kaaberbøl have said that Sezuan is the reason the series is not a triology.
  • Stock Ness Monster: Orm, a huge serpent who lives in a lake.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Davin is described as looking a lot like Melussina.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: When the Shamer's daughter is wanted, said daughter Dina cuts her hair and disguises herself as a boy.
  • The Musical: There've been made on in Denmark, running in fall 2012. [1]
  • Torches and Pitchforks: The equipment of the villagers who chased the Tonerre family away from their village.
  • You Should Have Died Instead: Ebnezer, whose oldest son died prior to the series' beginning, wishes Nico had died instead.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Drakan is well regarded by a lot of the people, as Nico is instead cast as the villain in the story of the Ravens family's loss. This is the subject of the song "Han er vor fader" (He is our father) from the musical.