Monday, August 17, 2015

Juliet Marillier - Wolfskin

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?

Comment: This is the first book of a duology written by Juliet Marillier. As always she presents a strong plot with many elements to explore, in particular facts related to the history of the Ozark islands and its occupation by Nordics.

In this book we meet Eyvind, a young boy whose main goal in life is to honor the God Thor and be one of his warriors. To be one, he has to be brave and eventually earn his place among the other warriors. 
The plot starts with him having to befriend and help Somerled, a timid but weird boy that shows up at Eyvind's house taken by his older brother Ulf. Somerled has a different way of seeing things and soon his personality is revealed to be quiet dark. But they now have a blood bond...
The story changes when the boys are older and travel with Ulf's men to a new place where Ulf wants to develop his ideas. But many things go wrong in that beautiful place and can Eyvind hold on to his honor while doing what should be right?

Juliet Marillier is a brilliant writer and she always manages to fill her stories with interesting philosophical questions, usually about honor and duty and doing what's right. For readers these issues are black and white, we see things and always know how things should go. Characters are actually more realistic therefore their actions are based on many factors when they don't have all the information.
I find this the hardest thing in this author's novels. I see the bad path some characters take, I see the bad things happening, I see how sad some consequences can be and I get so angry at that, how I wish the good guys could know before doing things exactly what that entails.

I think this can be seen as a compliment to the author's talent, to make the reader react, but frankly, I really just wanted the good guys to have the upper hand. I do understand emotion and the depth of feelings that can come forward because of ho characters react to bad and cruel things, but it's still despairing to watch.

As always, the author's writing is very good, evocative and presented to seduce and to grab us. It's difficult to put ourselves in the characters' shoes but often that game is something we can't avoid. I just think that with this author that brings too many charged reactions and it's not easy. 
I liked the story overall, I liked many interesting details about the way of life of the Nordics, about the islands they travel to and some historical data we can learn.

As for the fictional plot... it's nice to learn about characters, about what motivates them, how they become who they are, about the things they do and how all things are connected. It's not so nice to see where some things are going and how wrong they can be and how we can't change some bad things from happening.

I believe not many authors can grab a reader and make them strongly react to their words. We always retain out humanity and wishes in reading and sometimes it's hard to keep in mind this is fiction.
Eyvind is an amazing hero, he isn't perfect, he doesn't find excuses, he just doesn't want to face the truth at some point and he needs time to process that. I liked he wasn't blind but he wished so hard for things to just solve themselves. How good if that were to happen that way in real life too...
Nessa is a good heroine but I got the impression she wasn't as captivating as some others in previous series.

Overall, this book is good. But to be honest, it's not as special or maybe I should say it doesn't have the same interest in all the elements as some of her other work had. Could be this book? Could be that the sequel is better?
This is clearly Marillier, but after all things considered, even with that bittersweet but convenient HEA and finale, I still think this wasn't as well executed as some other books. Still, it's wonderfully written and has a good research work, as always...
Grade: 7/10

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