Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier

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Book Information  
AuthorJuliet Marillier
SeriesSaga of the Light Isles
Book Reviews / Comments (submitted by readers)
Submitted by Kseniya Shabanova 
(Feb 15, 2004)

This book surprised me. People told me that, yeah, it was decent, but nothing to the Sevenwaters trilogy. I walked around it at the book store for nearly a year, thinking, I'll get it in paperback. I mean, I don't *really* want to read it. Finally, I gave in, got it. I've been reading some crappy books, lately. I was not expecting much here, either.

Stupid, stupid me. I re-read the Sevenwaters books every few month, at least in pieces. It shocks me now that I could have expected anything but excellence from Wolfskin.

The story is set in Norway and in Orkney, in the days of Vikings. The main character is, in fact, one of these northern warriors - the very best. He is a very simple man, is Eyvind. All he wants is to be a brave warrior for three, maybe five glorious years, and then to die a brave and glorious death. He is, for lack of a better word, wholesome. Despite the fact that he basically kills people for a living.

When Eyvind is a boy, his brother brings home another boy child - Somerled - and asks Eyvind to teach this boy to be a man. Somerled is as complicated a person as Eyvind is simple; as unhappy as Eyvind is content; as brilliant as Eyvind is strong; as strong as Eyvind is brilliant - which is to say, not much. Nobody likes Somerled. Spending time with him loses Eyvind all his friends for the few months each year when Somerled is visiting. And yet... They become brothers, in more ways than one.

Eventually, they grow up. Eyvind is the warrior he intended to be. Somerled seems to have a brilliant future at court. Everything seems right and just as it should be, except for some things that Somerled does - some things that are less than humane, less than conscionable - some things that are beyond Eyvind's ability to believe of his friend. Eyvind genuinely believes in the goodness of people and certainly in the goodness of his friend. He refuses to follow his suspicions to their logical conclusion. He refused to see the clues.

An expedition mounts to sail across unknown waters, to find a place of rumors - a beautiful place, that promises advantages beyond count. Both men find themselves on the ships. Then, both men find themselves on the Light Isles, which are everything they could have expected or imagined. Here is a new place - a place for new beginnings, a place for opportunities, a place where a man like Somerled - weak, but brilliant - can have a worthy place. The only problem is that a place this beautiful has not been sitting unoccupied in the ocean all these years. It has a people and a long, deep history. There is a girl here, as beautiful as her land - Nessa. She sees in Eyvind more than he thinks of himself. And, soon enough, Eyvind begins to see things more clearly - all sorts of things, including his friend. And what he sees scared Eyvind, though he be a great, fearless warrior. It scares him and his bonds of brotherhood with Somerled begin to chafe. Unbearably.

This is not an easy story to fit into your heart. It examines the worth of loyalty, the pain of betrayal, the necessity of denying love, and the strength required to do what is right. Nothing is over-exaggerated. Nothing is melodramatic. Nothing is predictable or obvious. Marillier has an extraordinary ability to capture life - the way it never seems to promise more than is already there, and the way things can change in the blink of an eye despite all expectations.

Truly, I highly recommend this book. I can't wait for the second one, called Foxmask.

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