Jan 26, 2013

Blog Tour: Shadow of Time Review and Guest Post by Jen Minkman+Giveaway

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Shadow of Time by Jen Minkman. You can read my review, and Jen has written an interesting guest post on Codetalkers!

All Hannah longs for is a nice and quiet vacation after her first year of teaching French at a high school. She joins her brother Ben for the summer in their mom’s log cabin in Arizona. There, she meets Josh again, Ben’s childhood friend from the Navajo reservation. The little boy from the rez has grown up fast, and Hannah can’t help but feeling more for him than just friendship. But fate apparently has something else in store for her. And it’s not peace and quiet. Night after night, Hannah is plagued by strange nightmares about the past of Navajo Nation and terrifying shadows chasing her. They seem to come closer – and why is Josh always present in her dreams? Sometimes, the past has a way of catching up with you.

Watch the trailer: 

I have to be honest and say that I didn't warm up to the story or the characters instantly, but it didn't take too long for me to become engrossed in the mystery and romance, and by the end the love story gave me a lot of fuzzy feelings.
My favorite part of the novel is the Navajo lore. The setting, the language and the rituals added a new dimension to the novel. Jen Minkman merges the paranormal with a romance that transcends time, and throws in a mystery that kept me guessing until the end. It's not something you see a lot of in YA/NA and I appreciated the change. 
The pacing was nice, although I was getting impatient to find out what exactly is causing Hannah's nightmares (and why Josh features so prominently in her dreams), but the waiting was worth it. We get to know the characters well, and I loved how everyone was so normal. Not boring normal, but well rounded and down-to-earth.

If you're looking for something different, you might want to try Shadow of Time. It pays a lot of attention to the history of Navajo and their beliefs and ritual, but without info-dumping or stretching things. Since it shows that everything was well-researched, I asked Jen to write a guest post about the most interesting thing she discovered during her research.

When I first toyed with the idea for my book ‘Shadow of Time’, I just knew it had to have a Native American lead character. (I was mega-frustrated about Bella and Jacob not ending up together in New Moon; this is where it all started, really :) I also knew I wanted it to be set near a lake, so the first thing I did was to find out whether there were any reservations in America bordering on lakes. This is how the location for ‘Shadow of Time’ was ‘scouted’ and how the Navajo background became important to the story. Because of course, when I wanted to start writing, I realized in horror I knew absolutely nothing about the Navajo people, so I set out to find out all there was to know about them – their culture, language, mythology, customs, food, history, and so on and so forth. I bought tons of DVDs about Native American history, downloaded Navajo dictionaries, borrowed photo books from the library, went to a local shop that sold Navajo incense and pow-wow CDs... you name it. 

I know some celebrities call themselves method actors, and I guess I could call myself a method author by now. For months, I stank out the house with cedar, pine and juniper incense cones, stayed up till midnight to teach myself how to speak Navajo, and bored my closest friends and relatives to death with all my Native American stories. (Fortunately for my husband, he wasn’t in the picture yet, or we might never have gotten married in the first place ;)

What struck me most is how easy it is to slip up and make mistakes when describing a foreign culture that you have never witnessed first-hand. I found out Navajo people don’t point at things or people but rather nod or incline their heads, so I had to edit that out wherever I used it in the first draft. I thought I knew the Navajo words for ‘son’ – until I found out that a mother calling her son uses a different word than a father does. I was amazed at the sheer complexity of the Navajo language and the importance of family ties (all the different words for paternal or maternal aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews are mind-boggling). 

One particular thing that really touched me was the custom of the Beauty Way ceremony. In Navajo culture, everything is about balance or beauty (they use the same word for the two concepts). The expression ‘to walk in beauty’ comes from them. Whenever warriors came back from battle, they would go through this ceremony, because even though they deemed fighting a necessity sometimes, the Navajo knew that fighting upsets your inner balance as well as the balance with the world around you. Part of this ceremony required the warriors to speak about the people they had killed or injured, so as to make peace with their spirits. The famous Navajo codetalkers from WWII (as featured in the Hollywood film Windtalkers) actually never got to undergo this process as they were sworn to secrecy during and after fighting with the U.S. Armed Forces. Consequently, some of them never fully recovered from trauma after the war.

Although ‘Shadow of Time’ is certainly not a historical novel (at the core, it really is a romantic and paranormal yarn!), there are many elements in the story that I hope will contribute to a better understanding of the Native Americans in general and the Navajo people in particular. Imagine drums, chanting people and forest scents from incense while reading it, and you’ll have the same experience as I did while writing it!

Jen Minkman (1978) was born in Holland, in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn. When she was 19, she moved between The Hague, Salzburg (Austria), Brussels (Belgium) and Cambridge (UK) to complete her studies in intercultural communication. She is currently a teacher of English, career counsellor and teenage coach at a secondary school in Voorburg, Holland. She tries to read at least 100 books a year (and write a few, too!). She is a published author in her own country, and translates her own books from Dutch into English for self-publication. In her spare time, she plays the piano, the guitar and the violin. For every novel she writes, she creates a soundtrack.

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