Set nearly 20 years after the conclusion of Wolfskin, this atmospheric tale draws on Norse, Scottish and Irish history and myth to tell an effective coming-of-age story. Eyvind and Nessa nurtured peace and created a place where Norse and Orkney folk live and work together. Then Thorvald discovers that he is not the son of a revered war leader but of the hated Somerled, who long ago murdered the man Thorvald believed to be his father.
Bitter and betrayed, Thorvald sets off to find the exiled murderer and discover his true heritage. Creidhe, Eyvind's daughter, runs off to accompany her closest friend on his journey, unknowingly blundering into danger and oblivious to the fact that uncovering a truth decades buried could tear apart all that her parents have built.
The second volume in Marillier's Viking saga is every bit as compelling as the first. It is an easier read, with fairly straightforward plotting and characters a bit more appealing than the warlike Norsemen that dominated Wolfskin. Creidhe is particularly engaging, a traditional young woman who turns out to possess extraordinary wisdom and strength of character.
With an effective blend of the historical and the mystical, Marillier brings an ancient culture to vivid life. This is a strong historical fantasy that will also appeal to readers of medieval romances. (Aug., 464 pp., $27.95)
Jen Talley Exum