This is a review of “Foxmask” by Juliet Marillier. It is the second book in The Saga of The Light Isles. It follows on from “Wolfskin“.
Creidhe is a young girl living in The Light Isles with her family. She’s the daughter of Wolfskin Viking warrior Eyvind and priestess Nessa of the folk (Wolskin). She is something of a domestic Goddess, with her quick and clever hands and extensive cooking and embroidery skills. She is best friend to Thorvald, son of Margaret.
Thorvald is a quiet and thoughtful boy with few real friends. He has an intense and withdrawn manner that keeps most people away. After keeping a secret from him since birth, Margaret deems Thorvald a man and shares with him the true identity of his father. She tells him that he is the son of Somerled, a man who was long since banished from The Light Isles for his evil doings. Thorvald, hurt and upset, sets out on a quest to find his father. He takes with him his Fisherman friend Sam, and Sam’s fine boat. Unbeknownst to both, Creidhe has stowed away.
While at sea, a storm blows them into a region known as The Lost Isles. After landing they find this place is a dark and forboding settlement, filled with grim and tight-lipped folk. Creidhe is separated from the boys and dwells among the women of The Lost Isles. It seems the men are at war, but no one is telling Creidhe anything. She sets about to live as close to normal as possible among the strange, quiet women. She attends a woman giving birth, using her prized midwifing skills to deliver the baby safely. But soon after the birth, an eerie singing begins. A singing that sets a chill in the bones and a dread in the heart. When the singing stops the infant is dead. It becomes clear to Creidhe that the enemy the men face is like no other she has ever heard of.
Thorvald and Sam find themselves in the men’s camp, where the men of The Lost Isles are readying for battle. A yearly battle that is undertaken amd referred to only as: ‘The Hunt’. But what are they hunting for? And why is the hunt held on the mysterious Isle of Clouds? What will be the reward for locating the prize? Thorvald sets out to find these answers, but the men are just as tight-lipped as the women. And who is Thorvald’s father? Is it The Leader of The Lost Isles? The intimidating and threatening Asgrim? Or has Thorvald failed in his search to find his father?
And what of the Christian monks dwelling on The Lost Isles? Why does one of their number carry with him a concealed and deadly knife? And what is the meaning behind their cryptic warnings to young Creidhe?
An excellent and touching book. A couple of times throughout this story I found my heart twisted by Marillier’s beautiful prose. She sure knows how to convey strong emotion. I love the snippets of writing at each chapter’s beginning. It was a joy to follow each character’s development and journey to self-discovery. I enjoyed this novel immensely.