‘Wolfskin’ – Juliet Marillier (Book Review)

‘Wolfskin’ is a semi-historical fantasy novel set in a time of Norse gods, raging battles, land disputes and debauchery. Self-deprecating Eyvind passionately devotes himself to the god Thor, in keeping with his familial and tribal traditions. Eyvind reluctantly journey’s far from home, to a distant land called Whaleback in which he meets Nessa, the strong female figure and priestess who connects spiritually with earth and ancestry. A misguided villain and friend to Eyvind, Somerled, grows powerful,  almost to monumental proportions, and all but wipes out an ancient people while manipulating an entire army into blind obedience and brutality.

What follows is an adventure of bloody proportions, the most violent of Marilliers books I have read to date. Some of the war rationale and sacrificial ceremonies are frustrating to the reader, but thus are the threads which weave the history of earth and her inhabitants.

A point that left me puzzled was the prophecy regarding Somerled’s brother Ulf, recited only once toward the beginning of the story. The reader is given this information but it is scarcely explored and not repeated throughout the remaining 400+ pages. Even at its supposed fulfilment, J.M. does not repeat it for the reader and skims past it casually. Was this intentional? Downplayed to show its complete untruth? Or was the reader expected to have remembered these verses and pondered them throughout the winding tale? I am still unclear.

I enjoyed ‘Wolfskin’, as I always enjoy Marilliers prose. And being the first of hers written from a predominantly male perspective, it intrigued me. It was quite long, with thick, descriptive paragraphs which could span over a 60-page chapter and at times, I may not have given every word its due respect. But overall, this story of love and war wove folklore, magic, strength and loyalty, and it was enough to leave me satisfied and thirsty for the next book. 

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