Sequel to Marillier’s Wolfskin (2000), following the children of the previous novel’s main characters.
Thorvald, brought up by his widowed mother Margaret in the Orkneys, learns that his father is Somerled, an exiled murderer. Suddenly, his place in the half-Norse, half-Celtic community is in question; he decides to learn the truth about himself by going in quest of Somerled. He enlists the aid of Sam, a fisherman friend who owns Sea Dove, a well-built fishing boat. The two are joined by a stowaway: Creidhe, a young girl whose father was Somerled’s blood brother before the crime that led to his exile. After they are all but wrecked on a wild group of islands beyond the edge of the known world, they find a tribe led by Asgrim, a man of about the right age to be Thorvald’s father. Creidhe is immediately segregated, housed with the tribe’s women, and made to cover her hair. The two young men, needing to buy material to repair their boat, go off with the tribe’s men, who are preparing for a hunt—or perhaps a battle—on a nearby island. Disturbing revelations follow. Creidhe learns that the islanders’ children are being attacked, immediately after birth, by foreign spirits that kill them within a day. Meanwhile, the reader learns that Asgrim’s son has gone into exile after kidnapping the Seal People’s prophet, the Foxmask, thus bringing down their curse on the tribe’s children. Asgrim has called the hunt in order to capture Foxmask, return him to the Seal People, and end the curse. Believing that Asgrim is his lost father, and hoping to win his approval, Thorvald decides to help the clumsy islanders prepare for the hunt. When Creidhe learns what the islanders have planned for her, she attempts to escape them, setting off a conflict that seems doomed to end in tragedy.
Slow-moving, but emotionally charged.