An exemplary historical fantasy, re-creating the colorful landscape of 16th-century Scotland with dashes of witchcraft and lycanthropy. Anne Percy, Countess of Northumberland, joins her husband Tom and his allies when they rebel against the Protestant absolutism of Queen Elizabeth. Among other things, the northern nobles reject the new religion imposed by the Tudors; they remain loyal to the Catholic faith. But the revolt quickly bogs down, and the rebels must flee into Scotland, where they take refuge among the feuding, lawless Scottish clans. Betrayal follows betrayal; Tom is sold off to the English; and Anne barely escapes herself, aided by an ancient Scottish witch and an amorous werewolf, Jock of the Syde. Anne's wanderings carry her from castle to hovel to dungeon, across Scotland to the northern Isles and finally to the Ends of the Earth. While she retains her faith in the Virgin Mary, her experiences among the Scots make Anne far more sympathetic to the even older pagan rites she encounters there. Here's a novel that harbors none of the romantic misconceptions of history typical of most historical fantasies: this Scotland is bleak, dirty, and rough; life is hard and poor, but an authentic sensual joy lives beneath the squalid surface. Garcia y Robertson peoples his convincing historical background with believable, well-rounded characters, and neatly links Anne's personal odyssey with actual events. A fine novel for anyone interested in history or fantasy, and surely the most promising debut of the year.
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