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Foxmask: Children of the Light Isles #2    by Juliet Marillier order for
by Juliet Marillier
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Foxmask follows Wolfskin as the second in Juliet Marillier's absorbing saga of Children of the Light Isles. Creidhe, sunny daughter of ex-Wolfskin Eyvind and his priestess bride Nessa, has been close to Margaret's moody son Thorvald all her life, and sees good in him as well as darkness. Talented with her hands, she sews magical colored wools onto linen in a private work of art that she calls 'the Journey'.

As the story opens, Margaret has just disclosed to Thorvald the identity of his father - Eyvind's blood-brother Somerled, who slaughtered Nessa's people and killed his own brother, Ulf. As the first in this series ended, Somerled was exiled by Eyvind, sent to sea in a fragile boat, unaware that Margaret carried his child. Determined to find out his father's fate, Thorvald persuades his friend Sam (owner of a fine fishing boat, Sea Dove) to accompany him on a journey into the unknown. Unbeknownst to them both, Creidhe guesses their intentions and stows away.

They land on one of the Lost Isles, a group of inhospitable islands between Norway and Iceland, which the author tells us (in a Note at the end) bear a close resemblance to the Faroes. Dour local folk give them food and shelter and take them to their Ruler, Asgrim, at Brightwater, oddly insisting that Creidhe cover her fair hair. These incomers have long been in conflict with the original people of the islands, the Unspoken, with dark deeds on both sides. The Unspoken blame the newcomers for the loss of something valuable, their Foxmask. Asgrim's rule is based on fear.

Believing the Ruler to be his father, Thorvald helps train Asgrim's men for an annual hunt on the Isle of Clouds (which tides make inaccessible for most of the year), discovering in himself a talent for leadership in the process. Though Sam is concerned for Creidhe's welfare, Thorvald only thinks of himself and his new-found ambitions. Creidhe, kept separate from her friends, tries to help the women of the community, who suffer a terrible curse. And she in turn is aided by a small group of Christian hermits, including the white haired Niall who clearly had not always been a man of God.

Eventually, these plot threads are knotted together on the Isle of Clouds, where Creidhe meets Keeper and Small One, and finally understands her own heart. There's violence and betrayal, sacrifice and redemption before this thrilling tale ends. Juliet Marillier weaves a magical story in Foxmask, one with a stronger fantasy element than Wolfskin. I look forward very much to more of the Children of the Light Isles.

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