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Reviewed by Kathryn Bennett for Readers' Favorite
Painted Girl: The Spirit Key by RA Winter takes you on the journey of a Native American woman as she meets with supernatural influences in order to discover the will of her ancestors. The Spirit Key is what will save the heritage and history of the ancestors with young Sara seeming to be the best candidate, but can she be brought to embrace her heritage? Young Sara is haunted by the ghost of her mother. However, she is not the only one who is haunted by the ghosts of the past. Redhorse, who finds himself drawn to Sara, helping her as her dead mother's voice sings to her in the woods, is also haunted. He is haunted by the ghost of his father, the voice that is there with him every time Sara draws near.
This is the first book by RA Winter that I have read and I have to say I was excited to read a Native American coming of age/self discovery story. I have not seen too many of them and eagerly dove into this book. It did take me a little longer than I would have liked to feel connected to the story. I felt as if some of the first parts of the story were a little muddled. However, once things really started to unfold, the more the characters all seemed to slide into place. The cast of both the living and the spiritual is rich and varied, from a modern young woman who struggles to embrace her heritage, to the aged grandfather who knows how the heritage must be carried on, and fears beyond everything that the land and its spirits will not be protected and history will be lost.
I found this story to be not only a coming of age with love in it, but a firm reminder to any reader. The future can be amazing, but all of us should remember and have a healthy respect for the past. Without the past and those who came before us, no matter what the culture, we wouldn't be here today. This felt like a strong message in the book to me. If you are a reader who enjoys a vivid and varied cast of characters, I think you will like this book. The spirits are a strong presence and, for me, felt like the driving force of the story and how this book flowed. I look forward to seeing if there will be another paranormal tale coming from this author.