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Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier

Review by SS

The first thing I have to say about this book is, don't start it expecting something like her Sevenwaters trilogy. While some of the elements are similar, the feel of the book is not.

Wolfskin is told in the third person, and jumps between two narrators.

We follow Evyind, a Viking, from the time he is about 12 years of age. All Evyind wants to do is grow up to become a Wolfskin (a legendary fighter, who worships Thor and fights for his jarl (leader)), like his older brother Eirik. But one summer, he is forced to make friends with Somerled, the younger half-brother of Ulf, one of the Wolfskins. Somerled is a strange character, but he was the most (only) interesting character of the book. He is both ambitious and crippled by the feeling that he is unwanted and unloved. Eyvind and he swear on a blood oath that they will be brothers, and this leads to what will change thier lives.

While this book is set originally in the Viking lands, it soon moves across to the British Isles, like Marllier's first trilogy, Sevenwaters. This is part of what lets the story down, for me. While there is a fresh perspective of the British Isles (coming from Eyvind as a Viking), much of it remains the same. There is no real mystery set up about the place - it feels like a rather worn rendition of Sorcha and Liadan's home.

And while I found I loved the characters of Sorcha and Liadan, the female lead (and the other PoV which we get) of Wolfskin, Nessa, is quite irritating to me. This is because she is the perfect example of a wonderful, talented, good, beautiful, "independant" damsel in distress.

The highlight of this book was definitely the character of Somerled. But I feel that the two-sided view of him diminished as the book went on, until he became a flat and one-sided character.

There are also parts in the book which I simply do not buy. Some explanations are not clear enough. One piece of the plot simply feels like a manufactured excuse to provide a simple and logical answer to their problems.

I didn't notice this in the Sevenwaters trilogy, but I did notice it in Wolfskin - Marillier uses dialogue too often to explain parts of her world, and other parts of the plot.

One other thing which distracted from the overall merit of the book was the fact that I felt that this really wasn't Eyvind's story at all. It was partly his story, and partly Nessa's story, and partly Somerled's story, but not enough of any of their's to make it seem that one of them was the central charcter. This left the book feeling a bit ambiguous.

Overall, this was a decent read, but for me it was quite disappointing, because I had expected something as good as Sevenwaters.

3 out of 5 amulets.

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