Australian Women Writers Challenge: Book #4
Title: Wolfskin (Light Isles #1)
Author: Juliet Marillier
Publisher and Year: Tor Fantasy, 2004
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
All young Eyvind ever wanted was to become a great Viking warrior–a Wolfskin–and carry honor out in the name of his fathergod Thor. He can think of no future more glorious. The chance to make it happen is his when his chieftain Ulf is brought the tale of a magical land across the sea, a place where men with courage could go to conquer a land and bring glory to themselves. They set out to find this fabled land, and discover a windswept and barren place, but one filled with unexpected beauty and hidden treasures… and a people who are willing to share their bounty.
Ulf’s new settlement begins in harmony with the natives of the isles led by the gentle king Engus. And Eyvind finds a treasure of his own in the young Nessa, niece of the King, seer and princess. His life will change forever as she claims his heart for her own.
But someone has come along to this new land who is not what he seems. Somerled, a strange and lonely boy that Eyvind befriended long ago has a secret–and his own plans for the future. The blood oath that they swore in childhood binds them in lifelong loyalty, and Somerled is calling in the debt of honor. What he asks of Eyvind might just doom him to kill the only thing that Evyind has ever truly loved.
Will the price of honor create the destruction of all that Eyvind holds dear.
I found this book a little harder to get into at first from other books that I’ve loved from the same author. But, it really did take hold of me and I enjoyed the book thoroughly. I never quite understood Someled and his motivations or actions, or Eyvind’s blind trust in him. Eyvind as a Wolfskin and the band of warriors in general were very believable and I loved their story. I loved Nessa’s story and her wisdom, her background her care and focus in her wise woman’s responsibility.
This seems to be much more a tale of romance than I am used to from this author – romance is a common thread but this book was much more straightforward in the portrayal, the other threads seem to me as though they are there to further the romance plot when I think they are bigger than that and resolving them through the romance was a little unsatisfying for me. I love romance fiction and the romance itself was satisfying, but less so the way the other story elements rolled into it. Also, I love the way that Marillier often focuses on female characters and that was less the case in this book and that also possibly affected my overall enjoyment – not that I didn’t love the story of the warriors, simply that there was such little presence from female characters other than Nessa – even her teacher was only present in a very secondary way that seemed more designed to further the romance plot. I enjoyed the romance plot but I think I wanted more from it with the culmination of the other narrative elements.
The abrupt story shift with the death of Ulf really threw me – the whole narrative seemed a little choppy to me, but the story itself was compelling enough to get past the way it didn’t quite flow in the reading. I’m used to the writing from this author flowing like water, the reading is fluid and I become immersed – that was harder to find with this particular book. I enjoyed it, but it’s not my favourite title from her. Still, I am looking forward to reading the second book ‘Foxmask’.