This is a really enjoyable YA novel set in an alternate North America, where the settlement patterns were similar if not necessarily identical to our own world. We don't know for sure where the history diverged, but there is, in passing, a reference to "King Washington." Date is pretty vague; there are references to trains for long-distance travel to larger population centers, but the story is set in small settlements where the technology is that of the frontier. Any reader of the Little House series will recognize it.
Except that, as we gradually discover, magic works.
Eleven-year-old Alfreda Sorensson's life takes a dramatic turn when her father and brothers, along with neighboring men, kill a wolf that turns out to have been a werewolf. In the aftermath of the werewolf killing, death and tragedy stalk the community of Sun-Return, and Allie discovers she has true dreams as well as other skills that help her family and neighbors to weather the crisis.
Yet her clearly growing talent raises the question of her education and training, and this is no easy choice. Being a practitioner brings danger as well as power, and Allie's mother Garda is determined to keep her safe. Her father, and his cousin Marta, herself a distinguished practitioner, equally concerned for Allie's safety, believe that her talent is too great to be safely hidden away. She needs to learn the skills to actively protect herself from the dark creatures of the night.
As Allie grows into adolescence, she experiences first crush and first jealousy, and first mastery of her growing talent--and a far more serious and insidious threat to her friends and neighbors than the werewolf, one of the creatures of the night that cousin Marta had feared to have her encounter without the skills and education for the challenge.
This is a really nicely done story, well-written, lovely character development, and a magic system that has real costs and dangers as well as rewards. I'm looking forward to reading more.
I received a free electronic galley of this book from the author.