Behind the veil, the Sithe live in relative peace, the feared Lammyr kept outside the borders of their lands. Young Seth begrudgingly forms a friendship with his half-brother Conal, son of the clan’s chief and grows up in his shadow despite the lasting bonds that form between them. But when their father is assassinated, the queen turns against Conal and they find themselves banished to the mortal realm, in a time where being different is dangerous.
There is an amazing story in here, it’s just a shame it’s sandwiched between two lesser parts. When Seth and his brother are banished to the human world beyond the veil, we are introduced to the harsh realities of 16th century Scotland, awash with religious persecution and witch hunts. In comparison, the Sithe are a much more modern thinking, secular society and its interesting seeing the historical side told from their point of view. The story shows how easily hysteria built up and led to accusation of witchcraft in small communities. The burnings were genuinely heartbreaking in their telling.
However, there’s a lot of time spent world-building before we get to the point of exile, for the reader is introduced to the Sithe world first. It does the job of putting the brothers’ relationship and exile into context and also explains a little why Seth is so insolent and stubborn. Yet there are so many seemingly throwaway characters, names blurring into one, who suddenly become irrelevant once they go beyond the veil. And after an emotionally harrowing middle section, we are supposed to remember all the absentees. There were just too many and I found myself not caring if they lived or died.
The elements of nature and Celtic myth woven into the story were also highlights. The Kelpies (although never referred to as such) were wonderful beastly yet loyal creatures and the two young wolves made me want my own. The descriptions of the Sithe world conjured up familiar images of the Scottish Highlands in my mind.
I suspect there are a few plot points that are there to build up for the next book in the series. Kate’s actions all seem a bit vague and slightly stereotypical, tyrannical fae queen and then several things happen which felt a bit thrown in. There wasn’t a natural progression to the story that made me feel like I could have worked it out for myself. The Lammyr also seemed like an intriguing enemy but were underdeveloped overall. There were a few key moments that I felt I could easily read past and miss the point; indeed there is a crucial event near the end that I had to go back and re-read because it was described so briefly, it didn’t sink in. Compared to the middle section, it was a bit of a let-down.
Having said that, I do think I’d read the second book some time in the future. The ending led me to believe it might be going down paths I would enjoy.
This edition has recently been published in the US by Tor in hardback. A paperback edition is also available in the UK as well as ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
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