Yet again, Juliet Marillier has created another beautiful story set in the pagan world she first created in Daughter of the Forest. This novel, which follows one summer that Sibeal, the young seer with enormous talent we met in the last book, spends on her cousin, Johnny’s island, prior to taking her final vows. When a ship is destroyed off the coast and the strange survivors washed ashore, all Sibeal’s beliefs and abilities are put to the test in a way not even her gifts could have foretold.
This is a languidly-paced tale, that unfolds gently. Told from two points of view: Sibeal’s and one of the survivor’s, Felix, it is a story of awakening – spiritual, emotional and physical. Deeply moving and at all times gripping, Marillier keeps her readers in the moment and allows us privileged and insightful access to the principal characters. We feel what they do, understand their motivations and self-doubts and, in doing so, relate to them in a way that is very personal and assures we remain with them till the final moments. But the story also allows opportunities for reflection. I found myself pausing, and considering a character’s words or actions in a way I don’t very often. I think this is something to do with the knowledge of druids and pagan times Marillier pours into her stories. An awareness of the inner life that resonates from the story. The historical accuracy and faithful recreation of druidic practices and beliefs, never mind those of healers and warriors as well as those with other roles in the tight-knit community, is fascinating and adds layers to the story and the characters as well as situating the tale firmly in a time all too-soon forgotten.
When Sibeal and Felix undertake a dangerous mission, we’re plunged into an alternative and wonderful belief system that is teering on the brink of extinction. Will Sibeal and Felix be in time to save it or is their journey doomed to fail? And what is it that one of the survivor’s is hiding? Can they unearth the truth before it’s too late?
Many of the characters we’ve come to know and love reappear and we discover more of their lives and ambitions and walk with them as their futures unfold.
There is something so deeply satisfying about a Marillier book. After reading her, I feel a sense of peace that not many books provide. It’s as if, like Sibeal, you want to find a dark pool, or peaceful space and just contemplate quietly for a while. Reach into your self, your past , in an effort to understand the future.
I have no doubt that there will be another in this series soon and I will look forward to it with the same eagerness as I have the others.