Customer Review

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not quite as good as the prequel, 17 Mar 2005
This review is from: Foxmask (Paperback)
Foxmask is the second book in the Children of the Light Isles duet. The first book, Wolfskin, told the story of Eyvind and Somerled, their oath of blood brotherhood, and the Viking colonisation of Orkney, or the Light Isles as the natives called it.
This second book focuses mainly on Thorvald, son of Margaret and Somerled, and Creidhe, daughter of Nessa and Eyvind. Other characters, both new and old, make their appearances. Thorvald finds out about his true father at his coming of age. He is shocked and disgusted, assuming he must also be as twisted as his exiled father because he does share many things with the stories he has heard of Somerled. He sets out on a voyage to find his father, wanting to know the truth. He travels with his friends Sam and Creidhe to the most likely landfall the exiled Somerled may have reached ...
One of my criticisms of Wolfskin was that the two lead characters, Eyvind and Nessa, were not as appealing to me as the villain and a minor character, Somerled and Margaret. This is both rectified and worsened in Foxmask. Thorvald is a very interesting character; a loner, unable to fit in because his intelligence is greater than those around him and he is unsure when dealing with other people. He yearns to be a leader, to prove himself after finding he is not who he thought he was. He is tormented by the knowledge that his real father was the evil Somerled, not the honourable Ulf as he had believed all his life. He shows flashes of light and dark, and he could easily follow his father's path into tyranny or find a nobler way. He knows this.
Creidhe, to be honest I found her about the same as Eyvind or Nessa: alright, but nothing too interesting. The same applies to Keeper; for all his strange quirks he just did not really grab my interest or sympathy. Sam is something of a minor character, and not too interesting to me.
Niall is a fascinating character; I shall say little about him or I would give away far too much. Suffice it to say he demonstrates some incredible character growth and says a hell of a lot of interest. He is a deep character; even his name has meaning if you read the first book and remember a certain story told near the start ...
I found this book most interesting when revisiting old characters. Margaret's sections of the book in particular shone for me, as I loved her in the first book. I found myself eagerly advancing to find her next section, though they are all too limited in number. Fans of Nessa and Eyvind will be pleased to see them return, although my opinion of them remained unchanged.
Plot wise I preferred the first book. This is a preference of subject matter though; this second book is far heavier on the fantasy elements than the first, which almost read like a straight up historical novel. Magic, mystical creatures, seers, unnatural phenomenon, priestesses all feature quite heavily in this book - the plot is built around them. Like the first book these fantasy elements do lend a certain feeling of kinship to the old Norse sagas, but I am afraid a tale about recovering a seer is not as compelling to me as a tale of humans and their flaws.
Wolfskin was quite rare in that it made me feel some emotion as I read, and forged strong links between myself and two characters (yes, you guessed - Margaret and Somerled). Foxmask does manage to repeat this achievement, but to a lesser extent. It builds on what I already had from the first book; I did not find any bond to the new characters, and the few responses it drew from me were once again provided by Margaret and the little titbits about Somerled.
This said, I did find the book well worth reading. As I mentioned before the original characters are met once again, and you can not only see what happened to them after the close of Wolfskin but also find new insight into the events of the previous book. This is one reason why I loved Margaret's sections so much; I understood so much more of what makes her tick as a character, and this made me think again on what she had done in Wolfskin. There is another who alone makes the book worth reading for insight, but I shall not say any more as it would spoil some very nice plotting. You will know when you read. Thorvald also provides a nice insight by contrast of Somerled; two different yet similar people struggling with what they are. As you read his comments to himself you find they also apply perfectly to Somerled, explaining things you had previously only suspected. Having finished this book I am now going back to Wolfskin, which I only finished four days ago, to re-read it with my new knowledge.
Marillier is a strong writer; her work is always easy, and pleasant, to read. However with Foxmask I felt the first hundred or so pages seemed ever so slightly out of stride, almost as if the author needed a little space to settle in. That is not to say the beginning is painful or shoddy, only that it is fractionally below the usual standard. Once the rough spot finishes the writing resumes its customary polish and never lets it go. The ending did seem a little hurried, perhaps, but nothing too bad.
As you may have guessed I recommend this book is read in concert with its partner. The experience will be much more rewarding this way, I think. Reading Foxmask first will also spoil much of Wolfskin, because you will know in advance all those insights and details, the fates and the outcomes which Foxmask so deliciously provides. I do recommend the duet quite highly.
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