Sacred Ground

by Mercedes Lackey

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 622

Jennifer Talldeer is a young woman of multiple identities. To the outer world she is a private investigator with a degree in criminology. To her family she is Good Eagle Woman, a member of the Tzi-Sho gens. In her medicine ways she uses a third name, one which is "learned and not given," Kestrel-Hunts-Alone. As Kestrel she can take flight and survey the world below with her spirit-animal self. There is the suggestion that "Kestrel" is her essential identity, the one she has won for herself. "Jennifer" indicates what she does, and "Good Eagle Woman" is simply a bridge between the two others. Jennifer and her family are also a bit unusual because despite their Native American heritage (Osage on her father's side; Cherokee on her mother's) they have chosen to live in the "Heavy Eyebrows' world." They are not registered with any tribe. Her father works as a welder; her mother as a real estate agent.

Jennifer's biggest ambition is to become a full-fledged Medicine Woman. She also regrets her lost relationship with David; their breakup has left a big empty spot in her life. By the end of the novel both problems are resolved. Beyond these issues, the novel does not explore her character very deeply. If more Jennifer Talldeer mysteries are planned, presumably she will find herself with a new set of problems to surmount.

Her grandfather Frank Talldeer, or Mooncrow, is easily the most memorable character in the book. He lives with Jennifer in her modest Tulsa home. The neighbors think she is a dutiful granddaughter taking care of a feeble old man. But Frank is neither feeble nor in need of much care; Jennifer gets at least as much from him as she gives. She worries about his pizza-and-soft-drink diet and paying the rent; he worries about her happiness, her safety, and her growth as a shaman. As a Medicine Man, Mooncrow has an eclectic approach. He fits rituals from other tribes into the Osage traditions and does not hesitate to use an electric sauna as a sweatlodge, or to buy cornmeal at the supermarket.

Mooncrow also loves video games and likes to show the neighborhood children "tricks" which teach a lesson. He was in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Later, he worked as an aircraft mechanic at the Tulsa airport. Retirement has brought him the chance to explore the spiritual world and the serenity of living according to his heritage.

David Spotted Horse had shared Jennifer's bed and political concerns during college days. Then he dropped out, too impatient to change things to finish his degree and "work through the system." He tries to use the building site explosion as a cause celebre for his Indian rights campaign. This effort backfires, but not before it complicates Jennifer's investigation and almost causes his own arrest. When he sneaks out to the site in the dead of night and nearly gets himself blown up at the hands of the Little People (Jennifer rescues him), he has to reevaluate his acts. In some ways he is the character who grows the most. Under Mooncrow's guidance, he then goes on his own spirit quest, learning the benefits of watchful waiting and cooperation.

Aside from these three, the other characters are basically two-dimensional figures made to fit their roles. Rod Calligan is a standard-issue villain, full of bluster and greed and duplicity. His wife Toni is scared and isolated, so worried about incurring his wrath that she has little life of her own. The hired guns who kidnap Jennifer have the dubious distinction of being "the best in their field." They know how not to leave any traceable clues on bodies, but otherwise they are simply bad guys.

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