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Fantasy Friday – Wolfskin


Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier

Review by Jennifer (mywolfalways)


Marillier’s historic fantasy takes place on the Light Isles, now called Orkney, sometime before 880 AD.  It chronicles a possible history of the arrival of the Vikings and what transpired between them and the natives.  Marillier’s dedication to an accurate portrayal of Viking life was a delight to experience from beginning to end.  She does take a few artistic liberties, which she explains in a note at the end of the novel.

Eyvind begins the story as a twelve year old boy, living in a long house with his kin where he helps with the farming and hunting.  Eyvind befriends Somerled, a fosterboy, and teaches him all that he knows.  Somerled’s goal is to one day become king and finds that many of the games and activities that the other children play and Eyvind teaches him to serve no purpose.  He also informs Eyvind that he is a simple boy, but he should still make something better of himself than simply a Wolfskin (berserker).

Near their parting at the end of their boyhood, they decide to become blood brothers, permanently bound to each other.  Eyvind succeeds in passing the test to become a Wolfskin and Somerled goes to live at court.  While their paths are different, they often cross and eventually end up on a voyage together to the Light Isles.

At first things are peaceful between the immigrants and the natives, but things soon turn sour.  Members of both tribes are found dead, until it escalates to the point that Somerled finds himself in charge.  Eyvind throws himself into the heart of the conflict, attempting to prevent any further bloodshed on either side once he figures out what is truly going on.  Because of his interference, Eyvind is accused of betraying his kinsman.

After so much loss, the young priestess of the island decides to take a risk.  To bring the truth to light, she calls upon the selkies, the seal people, to create the harp spoken of in legends.  Once it is finally revealed to both peoples, Eyvind is left to make the most difficult decision of his life.  Marillier does a wonderful job of conveying Eyvind’s conflict between his emotions, his honor, and what is right.  The kind of decision that each one of us dreads to be forced to make.

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One Response to “Fantasy Friday – Wolfskin”

  1. James L. (JimiJam) says:

    I love reading about stories and legends that came from Europe in this particular era of history. The fact that the author made a point to be as accurate as possible is a huge plus. As tempting as “wouldn’t it be interesting if..” can be, I find some books take too many liberties with what is already excellent material. Always good to know there are still writers willing to do a proper amount of research; in my opinion, their works are much more valuable, and will stand the test of time far better than those that amount to little more than caricature and pastiche.

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