I amused myself by trying to guess which ones were Safe-Keepers, which Truth-Tellers. The old, grim-looking woman with the hot blue eyes was clearly a Truth-Teller; all the others stayed as far from her as they could, not wanting to have their clothes critiqued or their motives examined aloud. There was a tall, heavy man who sat by himself in the corner. His face looked both watchful and sharp; I thought he could be one of those rare Truth-Tellers who kept as many secrets as he pleased. Across the room from them sat two women and a man, laughing and talking in low voices. Safe-Keepers all, I thought, for it was strange but true: Safe-Keepers, at least the ones I knew, all seemed sociable and at ease with the world, despite all the dreadful secrets they knew and must keep buried in their hearts. Truth-Tellers, who could release their burdens aloud every day, were often nasty-tempered and fierce, and many of them were friendless.
Author: Sharon Shinn
From Goodreads: Innkeeper's daughters Adele and Eleda are mirror twins—identical twins whose looks are reflections of each other's, and their special talents are like mirrors, too. Adele is a Safe-Keeper, entrusted with hearing and never revealing others' secrets; Eleda is a Truth-Teller, who cannot tell a lie when asked a direct question. The town of Merendon relies on the twins, no one more than their best friend, Roelynn Karro, whose strict, wealthy father is determined to marry her off to the prince. When the girls are seventeen, a handsome dancing-master and his apprentice come to stay at the inn, and thus begins a chain of romance, mistaken identity, and some very surprising truths and falsehoods.
Notes: After Summers at Castle Auburn, I couldn’t wait long to track down another Shinn novel. This one, recommended by George (thanks, George), came with so many fascinating concepts that I was hooked from a glance at the back cover.
The fascinating concepts include the idea of mirror-twins, who reflect each other in perfect reverse—in this case, from the palindromic names, Adele and Eleda, on down. What each sees when she looks at the other is her own mirror image and the inverse of her magical gift. Adele hears secrets, offers wisdom, but never betrays a confidence. Eleda never lies or misinforms, and her words can even be prophetic.
Eleda (naturally) narrates the story, which carries a very Shinn setup: festive, lighthearted magic, loosely medieval worldbuilding, and memorable, pronounceable names. For all my fondness for thoughtful naming practices in fantasy, it's certainly easier on the reader to discover Micahs and Gregorys and Melindas mingling with the Roelynns and Darians, with not one Lúthien Tinúviel or King Roedran Almaric do Arreloa a'Naloy in the bunch.
Like Auburn, Eleda’s world comes strikingly alive for that of a standalone novel, and it grows its heroine outside the farm-to-destiny cycle common to its genre. It’s cheerful, likable, relaxing high fantasy—the sort that can be comfortably read, like Shannon Hale’s or Diana Wynne Jones’, even by those who wouldn’t come near million-word monsters like A Song of Ice and Fire or The Wheel of Time.
More than anything else, it’s a love story—or rather, a set of love stories. As such, it’s thoroughly enjoyable, if also thoroughly simplistic about the idea that true love of the romantic type is what grows you up and forms the basis of all your happiness. The story is far from being thoughtless, however. The play of Safe-Keeper against Truth-Teller is downright insightful, and there’s some pretty symbolism around the Wintermoon celebrations especially.
The tale would be worth reading for the attention to tangible detail alone, as that’s simply beautiful in places. The scene of Eleda’s first evening out with her young man is one of the loveliest of its type I’ve ever read.
There was nothing in this story to make me regret picking it up. I’d like to re-read it. As with Summers at Castle Auburn, it’s likely to send me hunting up more of Sharon Shinn’s work.