Wolfskin (Saga of the Light Isles Series #1)

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Overview

"Eyvind can think of no more glorious future than becoming a Wolfskin, a warrior devoted to the service of the mighty war god Thor. His closest friend, Somerled, a strange and lonely boy, has his own very different ambitions - yet a childhood oath, sworn in blood, binds these two in lifelong loyalty. Meanwhile, far away across the water, on the Light Isles, the king's niece Nessa is beginning to learn the ways of the mysteries - though neither the young priestess nor her people can realize what lies ahead for them." "Eyvind and Somerled seem set
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Wolfskin (Saga of the Light Isles Series #1)

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Overview

"Eyvind can think of no more glorious future than becoming a Wolfskin, a warrior devoted to the service of the mighty war god Thor. His closest friend, Somerled, a strange and lonely boy, has his own very different ambitions - yet a childhood oath, sworn in blood, binds these two in lifelong loyalty. Meanwhile, far away across the water, on the Light Isles, the king's niece Nessa is beginning to learn the ways of the mysteries - though neither the young priestess nor her people can realize what lies ahead for them." "Eyvind and Somerled seem set to follow very different paths: one becoming a fearless servant of the Warfather, the other a scholarly courtier. Then a voyage of discovery, led by Somerled's brother Ulf, brings the two friends together again in accompanying a group of settlers to some beautiful islands rumoured to lie across the western sea. However, their good spirits are dampened by a tragedy on board, which Eyvind begins to suspect may not have been an accident." Ulf's new settlement begins in harmony with the native islanders, led by King Engus. But one day, on a trip to a holy place of the Folk, a brutal murder occurs and that peace is shattered. It is now that Eyvind begins to feel the restraining ties of his boyhood oath...and to realize what sort of future Somerled had in mind for himself all those years ago.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
New Zealand native Juliet Marillier makes a dramatic departure from her wildly popular Sevenwaters trilogy with the release of Wolfskin, a historical fantasy about a young Viking warrior and a sacred blood oath that he made as a child.

Growing up on a farm in Norway, Eyvind dreams of one day becoming an elite Wolfskin warrior like his brother Eirik. To be called a Wolfskin, the candidate must pass a type of vision quest in which he goes into the wilderness naked and weaponless and kills a wolf with his bare hands. Once this feat is accomplished, the warrior dedicates his life to the Almighty Warfather, Thor, and usually lives a short but gloriously bloody life as a berserker Viking raider.

But one summer, as Eyvind is training to become one of Thor's elite, he is forced to look after the younger half brother of Ulf, a popular and much-respected Wolfskin. Somerled is a strange boy with deep-seated psychological problems. Feeling pity for the outsider, Eyvind reluctantly befriends him and soon realizes that although Somerled is emotionally damaged, he is also a master strategist and has big ambitions, which include ultimately becoming a king.

Simply put: Fans of historical fantasy -- especially stories dealing with the British Isles -- will enjoy Wolfskin as much as, if not more, than Marillier's popular Sevenwaters novels. A master storyteller and an expert on folklore and mythology, Juliet Marillier can be compared to a young Marion Zimmer Bradley -- especially in her consistent use of strong female characters. Paul Goat Allen

Sara Douglass

Juliet Marillier is among the most skilled of fantasy writers.... She is far better than Marion Zimmer Bradley.
Publishers Weekly
The clash of cultures and the limits of loyalty form the thematic framework of Marillier's compelling new stand-alone fantasy. Readers familiar with the author's Sevenwaters trilogy (Daughter of the Forest, etc.) will feel comfortable with the Dark Ages setting. Young Viking Eyvind dreams of serving the god Thor and the nobleman Ulf as an elite Wolfskin warrior. While training, he's charged with teaching Ulf's prickly younger brother Somerled, and the two become blood brothers, swearing lifelong loyalty. But the oath isn't enough to quiet suspicions about Somerled's ambitions to become a king and the means he might take to accomplish them. The two join Ulf on a voyage to a legendary land, "a place of warm sea currents, of verdant islands and sheltered waterways," home to the peaceful Folk of the Light Islands, ruled by King Engus. Though Engus extends a hand of friendship to the sea rovers, his niece, the young priestess Nessa, has her doubts about the warlike newcomers. When a foreign fever decimates the Folk but leaves the seafarers untouched, the truce begins to unravel. A multilayered plot, intriguing characters and lyrical prose distinguish a novel that, long as it is, never feels padded. (June 29) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT
Eyvind has always wanted to be a Wolfskin, a warrior who fights to honor the Viking god Thor and to serve the current Jarl. As a boy, Eyvind trained in his brother's footsteps, hoping to gain this respected and dangerous position. While waiting for the chance to prove himself with the Wolfskin trial, Eyvind helps a kinsman of the Jarl by befriending Somerled, the kinsman's younger brother. Somerled is as sure of being a king someday as Eyvind is of his desire to be a Wolfskin. Eyvind feels sorry for the friendless Somerled and during Somerled's stay, Eyvind bonds himself to the boy as a blood brother. The bonds of loyalty and honor are challenged as the two grow up and join Somerled's elder brother, Ulf, on a journey to a foreign land. The new land is home to many natives, including a young priestess with whom Eyvind falls in love. A raging illness takes the lives of many natives while Somerled uses treachery and deception to gain power. Marillier is a master at creating characters with depth and is an engaging storyteller who knows how to intrigue her audience. Somerled, in particular, is a well-crafted character who can be sweet one minute and pure evil the next. The vulnerability of the characters adds to their appeal and makes them even more real. Teen readers will empathize with Eyvind's desire to attain his dream and with his internal struggle to do the right thing. With just a touch of magic and a powerful ending, the novel will appeal to readers of Cecelia Holland's The Soul Thief and to readers of Norse legends and Viking history. Highly recommended to those who enjoy historical fantasy, this novel ends with historical notes. The sequel, Foxmask (published inhardcover in 2004), continues the story with a focus on Somerled's son. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Tor, 530p. map., Ages 15 to adult.
—Ginger Armstrong
Library Journal
Young Norseman Eyvind's dream of becoming a Wolfskin (Viking) reaches fruition when he joins an expedition led by the local ruler's kinsman Ulf that will sail to a bright land across the sea. Accompanied by his blood-brother Somerled, Eyvind finds a land occupied by people willing to welcome the newcomers and share with them what they have. When Eyvind discovers that Somerled has come to the new land for his own dark reasons, he finds himself forced to choose between his childhood oath and his sense of honor as a faithful warrior of his people and his gods. The author of the "Sevenwaters Trilogy" displays a thorough grounding in Norse culture in this series opener, which is based on the coming of the Vikings to the Orkney Islands. Appealing characters and graceful prose make this a strong addition to most fantasy collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The New Zealander folklorist completed her historical fantasy the Sevenwaters Trilogy with Child of the Prophecy (2002), set amidst conflict between Vikings and Picts in the Light Isles of Orkney. Now, focusing on a male main character, the Viking warrior Eyvind, a would-be Wolfskin, Marillier's story tells of the transition in Orkney between the Picts, inheritors of Iron Age ancestors and more recent Celtic immigrants, and the cultural revamping brought about by arrival of the fearsome Norse, whose invasion filters Viking gods into the populace by intermarriage and creates Norse dominance and the rise of Thor as god of warriors. Marillier re-creates these Pictish/Viking peoples as the Folk, with her own king Engus. This is as well the story of the berserks ("bear shirts"), or Wolfskins (ulfhednar), the ultimate warriors and elite strike force of kings and noblemen, who are sworn to Thor rather than to the trickier Odin, with the Wolfskins' blood oath of loyalty a promise to a god. Thus it is that Eyvind, who seeks to be a Wolfskin and honor the battle god, and his older brother Ulf, set forth from their icy homeland to cross the sea to the fabled island where they can earn glory and their own farms. At this point, the story turns on a spiritual split between Eyvind's honor and that of his best friend, crooked-smiling Somerled. Does Somerled's deep spark of goodness remain, or must Eyvind strike him down? Strong stuff, all gristle: Not a soft or sappy word.
From the Publisher
"Juliet Marillier is among the most skilled of fantasy writers.... She is far better than Marion Zimmer Bradley."—Sara Douglass
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765345905
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 8/1/2004
  • Series: Saga of the Light Isles Series, #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 792,499
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Juliet Marillier was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, a town with strong Scottish roots. She currently lives in a rural area of Western Australia, sharing her house with a cat and a dog. A university graduate in music and languages, she has had a varied career that includes working for government agencies, opera singing, and raising four children. Juliet now writes full time. Her lifelong interest in myth, legend, folklore and traditional music is a strong influence on both style and theme in her writing. A passion for early British history, reflecting her Celtic ancestry, is evident in her choice of settings.

Juliet Marillier achieved international recognition in 1999 with the publication of her award-winning novel Daughter of the Forest. This is the first book of the Sevenwaters Trilogy, a historical fantasy set in Ireland and Britain in the ninth century, and is loosely based on the traditional fairy tale, The Six Swans. The second book in the series, Son of the Shadows, won the 2000 Aurealis Award for best fantasy novel. Child of the Prophecy completes this trilogy.

Juliet Marillier's second series is based on the first Viking voyage from Norway to Orkney, and weaves history and folklore into a saga of adventure, romance and magic. The series is made up of two novels, Wolfskin and Foxmask. Juliet is currently working on a new trilogy set in the north of Britain in the time of the Picts.

Juliet is a member of the druid order OBOD and of the Australian Greens Party, reflecting her commitment to environmental causes.

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Read an Excerpt

WOLFSKIN


By Juliet Marillier

Tor Books

ISBN: 0-7653-4590-0


Chapter One

Winter bites hard in Rogaland. Sodden thatch shudders under its blanket of snow. Within the earthen barns sheep shiver and huddle, their breath small clouds. A man can lose himself in the drifts between byre and longhouse, and not be found again until the spring thaw. The pristine shroud that covers him is deep, but his long sleep is deeper still. In such a season the ice forms black and hard on lake and stream. For some, it is a good time: merchants whip their horses fast along the gleaming surface of the waterways, sledges piled high with pelts of squirrel and winter hare, with sealskins and oil and walrus tusks, with salt fish and fine embroidery. Boys dart across the river on their bone skates, quick as swallows, voices echoing away to lose themselves amongst the pale twigs of the winter birches.

It was Yuletide, and today there was no skating. The wind screamed around the temple, demanding entry through any chink or cranny its piercing fingers might discover. The timbers creaked and groaned in response, but held firm. So far, the roof had not leaked. Just as well he'd climbed up and shifted some of the weight off the shingles, Eyvind thought. The place would be full to bursting for the midwinter sacrifice.

Folk were already streaming into the valley, coming by sledge and on foot, on skis or skates, old men carried on their sons' backs, old women pulled on hurdles by red-faced children or panting dogs. The wind died down, as if holding its breath in honour of the occasion, but a new storm was coming. Dark clouds built in the west.

Eyvind had been working hard. The temple was on his mother's land, though shared by all in the surrounding district, so the burden of preparation fell squarely on the household at Hammarsby. He'd spent the morning chopping wood, stacking the pungent-smelling logs by the central hearth, making and banking the fire. It was nearly time for the ceremony; he should stir the coals now and put on more fuel. The white goat could be heard outside, bleating plaintively. His sisters had swept the stone floor clean and stripped the cobwebs from the rooftrees, while his mother, Ingi, polished the bronze surfaces of ritual knives and bowls to a bright, sunny sheen. These now lay ready on the altar at the temple's northern end. Cold light pierced the shingled roof above the hearth. From the altar, Thor's image stared down at Eyvind. Bushy browed, full-bearded, the god's wooden features held an expression of ferocious challenge. In his iron-gloved right hand he gripped the war-hammer, Mjollnir; his left was held across his chest, to signify the making of some vow. Eyvind stared back, meeting Thor's gaze without blinking, and his own hand moved to his breast as if returning a pledge of allegiance. Till death, he thought Thor was saying, and he whispered his answer, 'Till death and beyond.'

The air was crisp and chill, the sacred space clean and quiet in the cold winter light. Later there would be a press of bodies in the temple, and it would be all too warm. As Eyvind used the iron poker to stir the embers to life, there was a sound from the entry behind him. He turned to see a tall, broad figure striding towards him, hair and beard touched to dark gold by the glow of the rekindled fire.

'Well, well, little brother! I swear you've doubled in size since the harvest!'

Eyvind felt a huge grin spreading across his face. 'Eirik! You're home! Tell me where you've been, and what you've been doing! I want to hear everything!'

His brother seized him in a brief, hard embrace, then stretched out his hands to warm them before the flames.

'Later, later,' he laughed. 'Time enough for all that after the sacrifice. We'll have many tales, for I do not come alone.'

'Hakon is here too?' Eyvind asked eagerly. He admired Hakon almost as much as he did Eirik himself, for his brother's friend had earned his wolfskin at not quite sixteen, which was generally thought to be some sort of record.

'Hakon, and others,' Eirik said, suddenly serious. 'The Jarl's kinsman, Ulf, is with us, a fine man, and a friend of ours. He's brought his young brother and several of his household. They're on their way to Jarl Magnus' court. Ulf has a wish for some delicate silverwork, I think to impress a lady. I made it known to him that our sister's husband is skilled in this craft. They will spend some nights here, in any event; the storm looks likely to prevent further travel for a little. The Jarl himself was urgent for home. He has a new son, bred when we came back from the spring viking; he is gone ahead, but we have time before we must join him. He will not set out again before spring's seeding is attended to.' He glanced at his brother, and his tone changed. 'Eyvind? I've a favour to ask you.'

'What?'

There were new sounds from outside now, the rapid approach of many folk, voices raised in greeting.

'Later,' Eirik said.

Eyvind asked him no further questions, though it was hard to wait. Eirik was his hero. Eirik was a Wolfskin. That was the most glorious calling in the whole world, for surely nothing could surpass the moment when you heard Thor's call to battle ringing in your ears, pulsing in your blood, filling every corner of your being with a red rage that shut out any thought of fear. To charge forward in pure courage, inspired by the god himself-that bold vision tugged at Eyvind's thoughts by day and filled his dreams by night. What matter if a Wolfskin's life were short? Such a warrior, once fallen, would be carried straight to Thor's right hand. One day he himself would pass the test, and become one of that band to which Eirik and Hakon belonged, as had many of Eyvind's kin in times past. The men of Hammarsby had a noble tradition in the Warfather's service. So Eyvind practised with the bow and with the axe. He ran and climbed, he skated and swam. He shovelled snow and hunted and grew strong, awaiting that day. Eirik's tales kept his dreams alive. Later, perhaps his brother would tell of the autumn viking, the riches plundered, the battles won.

The folk of the district crowded into the temple, along with the men of Jarl Magnus' household, warrior and swineherd side by side. The high seat, its wooden pillars carved with many small creatures, was allocated to Ulf, kinsman of the Jarl, and by him stood the two Wolfskins, gold-bearded Eirik and the taller, hawk-featured Hakon. Each wore his short cloak of shaggy fur, fastened on the shoulder with an ornate silver brooch. Both were well armed: Eirik had the lethal skeggox, or hewing-axe, on his back, and Hakon bore a fine sword, its hilt plated with copper. The nobleman, Ulf, was young: not so much older than Eirik himself, Eyvind thought. He had many folk with him, probably housecarls called into service for the autumn viking, with a few richly dressed men who might be part of Jarl Magnus' household elite, or Ulf's own retainers.

Eyvind's eldest brother, Karl, began the ceremony, his solemn features glowing warm in the fire's light. Eyvind was pleased with that fire; the smoke was rising cleanly through the roof-opening to disperse in the cold air outside. Karl was no warrior. His choice had been to stay at home and husband the land, his brothers' portions as well as his own. It was a decision that, in hindsight, had been both wise and prudent, for their father, Hallvard Karlsson, had died in his prime, falling nobly in the service of the old Jarl, and leaving Ingi a widow. A young man with a young family of his own, Karl had simply stepped into his father's shoes. Now he and his mother controlled a wide sweep from hilltop to fjord, and commanded great respect in the district. All the same, Eyvind had never understood how his brother could prefer that existence over a life as Thor's warrior. Yet Karl seemed content with what he was.

'Master of storm, tamer of waves, iron-fisted one!' Karl now addressed the god in ringing tones. 'Hewer of giants, serpent-slayer, worthiest of warriors! In blood, we honour you! In fire, we salute you! In the shadow time, we seek your protection. May your strong arm guard us on land path and sea path. Smite our enemies and smile on our endeavours.'

'Hewer of giants, serpent-slayer, worthiest of warriors!' the assembled folk chanted, and their voices rose with the fire's heat to ring out across the snow-blanketed hills and the dark fir trees, straight to the ears of the god himself. Eyvind joined in the response, his gaze on Thor's staring, formidable eyes. Now Ingi walked slowly around the temple, bearing the ritual arm-ring on a small embroidered cushion. Over many hours a fine smith had wrought there an image of the world tree with its attendant creatures: the serpent Nidhogg at its deepest roots, the noble eagle at its tip, the squirrel Ratatosk scampering between. The pattern went right around the ring; a man could never see the whole of it at one time. They held the sacrifice at first frost, at midwinter and in spring; at all other times, this treasure was well locked away from curious eyes. One hand after another reached out to brush reverently against the gleaming gold: girls' hands still soft and milk-pale, men's hands branded by axe shaft and bowstring, gnarled old hands that knew many winters on the land. All moved to pledge allegiance to the warrior, Thor, and to Odin, who had hung on that self-same tree in search of wisdom. Even the thralls, clustered like a body of shadows at the far end near the door, stretched out tentative fingers as Ingi passed.

Karl lifted one of the ritual knives from the altar. The goat was struggling, afraid of the crowd and the fire. It seemed to Eyvind that the boy who clutched its neck rope could not hold the creature much longer. If he let go of the rope, the goat would free itself and bolt across the crowded temple in a chaos of hooves and horns. One could not offend the god thus. Eyvind got up and moved forward, relieving the red-faced lad of his charge, soothing the animal with soft words and a careful hand.

'Go on, then,' he muttered. Karl raised the sacrificial knife; the firelight shone bright from its bronze blade. Eyvind tightened his grip, forcing the white goat's head back, exposing pink, naked skin where the hair on the throat grew more sparsely. Perhaps sensing the inevitable, the creature made one last desperate surge for freedom. But Eyvind's hands were strong. 'Hurry up!' he hissed.

The knife came down, swept across. It should have been easy. Karl was a farmer; slaughtering stock was a routine task for him. But at the vital moment, a bird shrieked harshly above the smoke-hole, and somehow the knife slipped sideways, so the blood did not spurt free and scarlet, but only seeped dark against the pure white hair. The goat screamed, and went on screaming. The god was displeased. Karl stood frozen, knowing the omen was bad for them. Thor's eyes were fierce and angry on his back.

'Here,' said Eyvind. He took the knife from his brother's fingers, holding the bleeding goat with one hand, fingers twisted in the rope. His legs were on either side of the creature, forcing its agonised form still. This must be done well, now, or there would be failed crops, and sick beasts, and death and defeat on the field of war.

'Iron glove guide my blade,' Eyvind said, fixing the god's wooden eyes with his own. 'In your name, great battle god!'

There was only one way to do such things: hard and swift, straight across, near severing the neck. Fast, accurate and merciful. How else could a clean kill be made? The screaming ceased. The white goat went limp. Eyvind's sisters held the bronze bowls to catch the blood. There was no telling what Thor thought of the manner of it, but at least Eyvind had done his best. He turned to face the folk, helping Karl to lift the slaughtered goat high so the blood could flow into the bowls. Drops spattered hands, faces, tunics. The altar bore a pattern of red spots; a bloody tear trickled down the face of the god.

I will kill cleanly for you, Eyvind told Thor, but not aloud. Let me be a Wolfskin, and I will be your bravest warrior. Braver than Hakon; braver even than Eirik. All that I am, I will give you. He looked down the temple towards the great assembly of folk, and straight into a pair of eyes so dark, so piercingly intense that his heart seemed to grow still a moment, then lurch painfully back into life. His mind had been on Thor, and blood, and sacrifice, and for a moment he had thought-but no, this was only a boy, a lad of his own age or maybe younger, who stood amongst the richly dressed entourage of the nobleman, Ulf. But how he stared. He looked at Eyvind as a starving wolf gazes at a man across the wayside fire, wary, fascinated, dangerous. The boy was pale and thin, his brown hair straggling unplaited, his mouth a line. His features were unremarkable save for those feral eyes. Eyvind blinked and looked away.

The girls bore the brimming bowls down the temple, white fingers dipping the blood-twigs in, splashing bright crimson on floor and wall, anointing pillar and hearth and doorframe, marking each man and woman with the sacrifice. When the bowls were empty, Karl laid them on the altar beside the knives, and the goat was dragged outside to be gutted and prepared for cooking.

'Warfather, we toast you this day of Yule!' Karl raised his great drinking horn. Ingi had passed between the men, pouring the ale with care: one would not wish to offend Thor by spilling any before the toasts were complete. 'All hail, great battle leader!' Karl called. They drank.

'All hail, mighty Thor, smiter of serpents!' Ulf cried, rising to his feet and lifting his own horn, a fine piece banded in silver. The men echoed his ringing tones and drank again.

'We salute you, crusher of giants!' Eirik's voice was as fierce as his weathered countenance. So the toasts continued, and as they did the patch of sky darkened above the roof aperture, and the inside of the temple glowed strangely in the fire's light. The boy was still staring; now the flames made twin points of brightness in his night-dark eyes. Thunder cracked in the sky above; sudden lightning speared the sky. The storm was on its way.

'Thor is well satisfied,' said Eirik. 'He calls his greeting to our small assembly; it is a hearty war-song. Come, let us move close to the fire, and pass the day with good drink and feasting and tales. A long season we spent on the whale's way, with the wind biting cold through our tunics and never a drop of ale nor a woman's soft form in our sight. We thank the god for guiding us home safely once more. We thank him for our glorious victories, and for the rich spoils we carry. In the growing season, we shall sail forth again to honour him in deeds of courage, but for now, it is good to be home. Let him look kindly on our celebration.'

There were many tales told that day, and the more the ale flowed, the more eloquent the telling. There were tales of Thor's valour and Odin's cunning, tales of dragons and heroes. Eyvind sat close to his brother, Eirik, savouring every moment. Of such stuff are dreams made. He wanted Eirik to tell them about the autumn viking: where they had been, what battles they had fought and what plunder they had brought home. But he did not ask. It was enough, for now, that Eirik was here.

That boy was still watching him. Perhaps he was simple in the head. Eyvind tried staring back; the boy met his gaze without blinking. His expression did not change. Eyvind tried smiling politely, though in fact he found the constant scrutiny unsettling. The boy gave a little nod, no more than a tight jerk of the head. He did not smile.

At length, the fire burned lower. The smell of roasted goat flesh lingered. Bellies were comfortably full of the rich meat, and of Ingi's finest oatcakes. The temple was warm with good fellowship. Thor, it seemed, had overlooked the imperfect manner of the ritual, and chosen to smile on them.

Hakon spoke. 'I have a tale,' he said, 'a tale both sorrowful and inspiring, and well suited for Thor's ears, since it tells of a loyalty which transcended all. It concerns a man named Niall, who fell amongst cut-throats one night when travelling home from the drinking hall. Niall had on him a purse of silver, with which he planned to buy a fine horse, and ride away to present himself to the Jarl's court. He was not eager to give up his small hoard and his chance to make something of himself, for Niall, like many another young farmer's son, was not rich in lands or worldly possessions. He had worked hard for his silver. So he fought with hands and feet and the small knife that was the only weapon he bore; he fought with all his strength and all his will, and he called on Thor for help from the bottom of his lungs. It was a one-sided struggle, for there were six attackers armed with clubs and sharpened stakes. Niall felt his ribs crack under boot-thrusts and his skull ring with blow on blow; his sight grew dim, he saw the night world through a red haze. It occurred to him, through a rising tide of unconsciousness, that this was not a good way to die, snuffed out by scum for a prize they would squabble over and waste and forget, as he himself would be forgotten soon enough. Still he struggled against them, for the will to live burned in him like a small bright flame.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from WOLFSKIN by Juliet Marillier Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Juliet Marillier
New Zealander Juliet Marillier (a talented young novelist whose use of strong female characters invites comparison to Marion Zimmer Bradley) presents Wolfskin, the first installment in her projected two-book Saga of the Light Isles. In an exclusive interview with B&N.com, Marillier answered a few questions about her award-winning Sevenwaters trilogy, her lifelong affinity with folklore, and her exciting new series.

Paul Goat Allen: In Frank Herbert's biography, Dreamer of Dune, Brian Herbert wrote about the demands on his father to write more Dune novels, although he had other projects he wanted to complete. I've read comments on a few fantasy web sites from fans of your Sevenwaters trilogy, basically pleading for you to continue the series. How much does fan opinion affect what you write? And have you been approached by your publishers to continue the Sevenwaters story line?

Juliet Marillier: I do pay attention to what my fans say, since without my readers I couldn't make a living doing what I love most. But in terms of deciding what direction to take with a new book or series, the idea is always mine. I can only take pride in my work if it comes from the heart; it must be a story that is bursting to get out, one I feel passionate about. If I did write more books about Sevenwaters at some time in the future, it would only be because I felt a personal and artistic need to do so and knew there was a part of that story that still had to be told.

I haven't been approached by the publishers to continue the Sevenwaters story. Generally, my publishers seem happy for me to pursue new projects. I have a further trilogy currently under way, which is unrelated to either Sevenwaters or the two-book Saga of the Light Isles.

PGA: Your Sevenwaters saga and Wolfskin are strongly built around historical folklore and mythology. How did growing up in Dunedin, New Zealand, influence you to become drawn to the subject of folklore?

JM: Dunedin was settled by Scottish and Irish immigrants, my own family among them, and it keeps its Celtic traditions very much alive. My childhood was full of Celtic music, stories, and culture; and this developed, for me, into a love of all kinds of folklore, fairy tales, myths, and legends -- as well as a passion for history. My parents told me stories, sang to me, and encouraged me to read and to love books. It's not surprising that I was a writer by the age of about seven. The very rich Maori culture of New Zealand and the evocative landscape were also major influences.

PGA: What was it specifically that motivated you to write a series about Vikings and Norse mythology?

JM: I read a book about Viking warfare and was intrigued by the description of berserk warriors, sometimes called berserkers. They were known to exhibit insane, trancelike courage in battle, fighting with immense savagery. I discovered that in between the Viking seasons these apparently crazy men went home to tend their crops, father children, and lead very ordinary lives. According to the Icelandic sagas, they were respected for their elite skills more than feared in their own time. As I read more about Viking culture, my central character, Eyvind, sprang to life -- a likable, rather reserved young man with a burning ambition to serve the god of war as a Wolfskin, or berserk warrior. I was also interested in the multilayered history of Orkney, so the story grew around the first Norse expedition to those parts. I enjoyed building both Norse mythology and a goddess-based Pictish religion into the story -- the Picts were in Orkney first, so Wolfskin contains a strand about the clash of those two cultures.

PGA: Although Wolfskin is filled with a plethora of powerful male characters -- Eyvind and his brother Eirik, Ulf Gunnarsson, Jarl Magnus, King Engus -- it's the women who ultimately are the real strength, especially when it comes to the Folk of the Light Isles. How much fun was it to write a story saturated with Viking berserker testosterone, where characters like Nessa, Rona, and Margaret have such an integral role?

JM: I enjoyed writing a story in third person this time (unlike the female, first-person narration of the Sevenwaters books), because it allowed me to show male and female perspectives more fully. This was paralleled by the contrast between the warlike, macho Norse gods and the earth-based religion I invented for the Pictish folk, with Rona and Nessa as the two wise women who struggle to protect their threatened culture. I hope I manage to convey a sense of women's strength in the book and their very different approach to solving problems. The young Norse wife, Margaret, was interesting to write -- she is torn between duty and conscience and the need to put her responsibility as a leader ahead of personal considerations. I was pleased that, in the end, these three very different women were instrumental in bringing about a conclusion to the blood-soaked sequence of events created by the feuding men. (I hasten to add that Wolfskin includes many examples of admirable male strength and goodness.)

PGA: On your web site, www.julietmarillier.com, you write about how your Saga of the Light Isles will encompass just one more book, Foxmask. Can you tell your fans a little bit about what this next novel will be about? And when can readers in the United States expect to see this on the shelves?

JM: Tor Books plans to release Foxmask in August 2004. It's hard to tell you much without including spoilers for Wolfskin. Foxmask takes up the tale 18 years later. The protagonists, two young men and one young woman, set out on a perilous journey and find themselves swept up in a struggle to retrieve a mysterious seer, the visionary child Foxmask, on whose return the survival of an entire tribe depends. The story is a lot more magical than Wolfskin, which is more a saga of historical adventure. Both are at heart coming-of-age tales. Readers will find that, despite the contrast between the very female-oriented Sevenwaters trilogy and the action-packed new series with its broader perspective, I am still writing books about human journeys and ordinary people finding their own extraordinary strengths.

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2006

    I love Juliet Marillier!!

    Juliet Marillier is by far my favorite author. She first cast her net on me with DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST. When I had finished that, I knew I loved her work. Then when I received the second SON OF THE SHADOWS from my friend along with CHILD OF THE PROPHECY I was so ecstatic. I read SON OF THE SHADOWS in a week(an amazing feat for me) and it then became my favorite book. I still haven't finished CHILD OF THE PROPHECY, the third and last installment in THE SEVENWATERS TRILOGY(it bores me)but I am trying really hard to finish it. But back to topic: This book only took me two days to read(and one was a school day). I completely fell in love with Nessa. She was an extremely great character and the entire story was phenomenal(it is now my favorite book). I can't wait to start reading FOXMASK, but must because I'm reading so many books right now and I'm going to read it for my third quarter book in my senior lit. class. I highly recommend anything by Juliet Marillier-but more specifically this book.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2004

    A faithful fantasy reader..

    This book takes the story of a Viking warrior onto his true path through his life, this is something that inspired me to read about his journey. After reading the Sevenwaters books, I could not wait until the next book from this author came about and this was it, WolfSkin..I spent my entire setting of this book trapped in the paradise of the Florida Keys, which is close to my home. I didnt realize really how much I could not put the book down just like the others I thought to myself..and within 4 days, the book was finished...now I am yearning for another great book to arise from this group..I cannot wait!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2014

    Enthralling Picts meeting Vikings for 1st time in Orkney islands Enthralling & Original Picts meeting Vikings on Orkney Islands

    Add to the danger list of books so good you can't put them down and end up staying up all night long reading! Creative original storytelling mixing interesting characters steeped in early Druidism, Christianity and the Norse gods in the Orkney islands off Scotland, I love this author's tale spinning skill!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2013

    Kept me interested

    Love marrs books. This one kept me reading til all hours of the night

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2013

    Long saga

    The story was good, but for me very slow in the beginning. So much detail, and at times i felt the dialogue among characters was reptitious. It was ok, but i was eager to finish the 1400 pages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2013

    Love it

    You like inspiring female characters a little magic and lovers that go to hell and back? This is your book. Marillier can transport you with each page. Enjoy

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2012

    Love them

    Anything by juliet millier is amazing. Especially the sevenwaters series and wolfskin and foxmask. You would not regret buying this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2012

    Sarts out slow but a very good book!

    This is a great book, i read the Sevenwaters series, loved it, this is another tale written by a true story teller. G

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  • Posted March 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Marillier has done it again!!!

    Wolfskin is a book like no other in its genre! Revolving around vikings, blood oaths, enchanting wild women, and a mysterious land, Wolfskin takes readers on an adventure that transcends time! Making her way deep into the hearts of men and women, Marillier brings to life a passionately written novel filled with desires, weaknesses, and triumphs! A book worth reading down to its final page!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2010

    Another great piece

    I love this author and she creates yet another wonderful book. She always knows how to best combine fantasy and fairy tale with fact and history, romance, and adventure. The novel is moving and exciting, a great book with dashing vikings and beautiful, wild women. What a heart pounding story once again!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2006

    A disappointment

    I love Juliet Mariller's books, but I have to admit that this one was a disappointment for me. I didn't find it as flowing as her others and just couldn't get into it for a while.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2004

    Excellent Book

    The drama, action, and pure magic of Wolfskin surprised me. I picked up the book on a whim and found it impossible to put down. For those who love Fantasy and especcially historical Fantasy then this book is your best choice. I highly recommend it.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    deep gritty historical fantasy

    Ulf, already a Viking warrior Wolfskin, learns about a magical place across the sea. Believing there must be plenty of treasure and a chance to do honorable deeds in Thor¿s name, he decides to sail for the Orkney Islands. Young Eyvind sees this as his chance to become a Wolfskin and pleads his way onto the crew. <P>They reach this land, but find friendly people led by a kind-hearted king Angus who are willing to share their bounty with the ¿invaders¿. Eyvind meets the monarch¿s niece, the seer Nessa and falls in love but though attracted she does not trust the newcomers. Eyvind's new happiness is tested when his heart friend, Somerled, invokes their childhood blood oath of lifelong loyalty. Somerled¿s demand places Eyvind in a tug between honor and love exacerbated by a disease that ravages the natives Folks, but not the Norsemen which leading to enmity and perhaps war between the two groups. <P>Juliet Marillier takes her audience to the same Dark Ages that is the focus of many of her novels with this deep gritty tale. WOLFSKIN takes no prisoners as the audience observes a hostile world even when the two groups forge an alliance. The key to this powerful historical is the cast as Eyvind, Nessa, and Somerled seem genuine and their ¿triangle¿ makes for great insightful reading. Ms. Marillier shows why she is among the top writers of historical fantasy with a fabulous opening novel that will excite readers with its depth. <P>Harriet Klausner

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    Posted April 8, 2010

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    Posted September 2, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2012

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    Posted April 8, 2010

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    Posted December 25, 2008

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