Gathering Blue, published in 2000, offers a disturbing yet hopeful view of the future that challenges readers to reflect critically on the social values and political directions of the present. It is the story of Kira, an extraordinarily talented young girl who finds herself suddenly orphaned and taken to live in a mysterious government compound near the center of her village. Thereshe meets other equally talented and creative children, and together they discover the truth about themselves, their parents, and their society. In the end, Kira learns that in order for her village to survive and to prosper, she must overcome her own fears and break down age-old patterns of superstition and isolation so that she may "gather the blue."
In a simple village bestdescribed as a future-past society, a small group of officials, known as the Council of Guardians, rules over the populace. The Guardians live in the only modern structure in the village, the Edifice, where they administer the laws of their people, while maintaining their history by performing an annual ritual called the Ruin Song. An ornate robe depicting scenes from the song and an intricatelycarved staff, both of which require extremely skilled care, aids the Singer of the Ruin Song. Gathering Blue is a tale of two teenagers both blessed and cursed with the skills necessary to care for these objects, and their gifts will lead them to discover some unpleasant truths about the Guardians and their society as a whole.
Kira, a teenage girl with a leg deformed from birth, has just bidfarewell to her dead mother. Fierce beasts had dragged off her father before Kira was born. Her society scorns the infirm, usually casting them aside and leaving them to die. Unsure of her future, Kira returns to her home and finds her neighbors attempting to take control of her land. After a potentially fatal confrontation with Kira's neighbors, led by an aggressive woman named Vandara, it is agreedthat the fate of Kira's home will be decided by the Council of Guardians, the leaders of the village who reside in an impressive building known as the Edifice.
The Edifice is a remnant of an ancient society and is the only conventionally modern building in the village. The council hears Vandara's case against Kira, and a Guardian named Jamison is appointed to represent Kira. Jamison is familiarwith Kira's family and is aware she possesses an extraordinary skill in needlecraft. The council decides that Vandara may take Kira's land but that Kira's life will be spared. She will reside in the Edifice and assume the role her mother filled before her death as the keeper of the Singer's robe.
Kira's village relies on an oral history known as the Ruin Song that is sung once a year by theSinger, who wears an elaborate garment depicting scenes from the song. The Singer also carries a staff that helps him or her maintain his or her place in the Song. Both of these objects require much skilled care, and Kira is recruited to take care of the robe.
Kira moves into the Edifice with the help of her young friend, Matt, and she soon meets Thomas, a boy about the same age as Kira, who hasalso become a ward of the Guardians after his parents were killed. It is Thomas' job to maintain the Singer's staff with his skill in woodworking.
Kira soon begins studying the art of dyeing under an old woman named Annabella at her home deep in the woods. Annabella tutors Kira in the cultivation and use of various plants to make different colored dyes, which she will use to make thread tomaintain the robe. When Kira asks if the old woman can make blue thread, a rarity in Kira's village, Annabella says she lacks the necessary plants to make the dye. She mentions others that live far down an old path leading away from her home that have the means to make blue.
Kira and Thomas become friends as they tend to their daily duties, and Matt, along with his dog Branch, becomes like a...