Top positive review
42 people found this helpful
Legend brought to Life
on 23 June 2009
Warrior Daughter has a strong, brave heroine and is powerfully written by an author who pulls no punches when it comes to taking the reader to the heart of the action.
It is the story of the child Skaaha's journey to womanhood on an Iron Age Scottish island. Her life, and that of her sister Eefay, changes dramatically when their mother, a warrior queen, dies in a chariot race. They are sent to new communities, separately, distancing them from the unpopular new queen, Mara. Skaaha goes to the father she never knew, to train as a blacksmith, but continues the warrior type exercises she practiced previously. Aged 11, she has many challenges to face, culminating in a personal crisis some years later, which takes her to the edge of insanity. Aware now that some-one wants her dead, Skaaha does intensive warrior training in order to challenge her adversary, determined to fight to the death.
Warrior Daughter contains a rare insight into a first century society, based on the island we now know as Skye. Showing us a culture very different from our own, we discover that the leading is done by women and of course the warriors are of both sexes. This does not mean the men are powerless wimps - far from it. Both genders have important roles and we meet many interesting characters in the novel. Two of my personal favourites are the gorgeous Druid Priest, Ruan, and Jiya, Skaaha's aunt, who has mental problems. Also a warrior, she is loyal and funny.
The laws and ethics of living in such a community are enviably clear-cut, with helpful boundaries on one hand, and the sexual freedom and respect of women on the other. Of course, there are some who would break the rules, as in today's society. We are also given an insight into Druid beliefs and practices, including the four main festivals of a year. Into the background are threaded descriptions of clothing, jewellery and food. Sound, through the cries of birds, or the throb of a festival drum brings the reader right into the action.
Janet Paisley never shirks from graphic depictions when it comes to sex scenes, nor ones of violence. These are never gratuitous; rather they take the story forward, inviting the reader to experience them along with the characters. Such a scene, one of revenge, reveals exactly how a victim feels when they are being violated, one which I felt was particularly cleverly written. However, the novel is not without its share of humour, which is well handled, and well placed.
Equally powerful are the beautiful descriptions of early morning mists and landscapes, firelight story-telling gatherings, tender moments between characters and the sad aftermath of an infant's death, where raw emotions are expertly handled. The author has a great understanding of human nature and gives us people to believe in. To place them in the Iron Age is a feat in itself which demonstrates the extent of research done, confirmed in the author's note at the back.
Skaaha's earlier life is fiction, based on the Historical Sgathach, Iron Age Warrior, whose legend was recorded in the oral traditions of the time and later in the Ulster Cycle, written by medieval monks. It is a believable precursor to the woman of legend, and a superb story brilliantly told.