Roc, 2009 (2009)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
uliet Marillier continues to deliver quality Celtic fantasy in
(whose title comes from the name of a rare herb used to produce a splendid deep purple ink). Its leads are two individuals whose self confidence has been carefully demolished by others - over time each learns to trust and love the other. They help each other to face and overcome their fears.
e first meet the story's heroine, Caitrin, fleeing from her home in Market Cross. After the death of their father Berach, who taught Caitrin to be a scribe like him, her elder sister departed to wed her lover and Caitrin was left to the not so tender mercies of distant relatives. Her kinswoman Ita humiliated her and tore down her self esteem and Ita's son Cillian beat her. Now, penniless and at the end of her road, Caitrin finds herself near Whistling Tor, which has an uncanny reputation.
t first hostile, the folk in the settlement take her in and speak of the curse that has hung over the area for four generations since ghosts and monsters were called forth by their current chieftain's ancestor, '
Things that lead you out of your way, then swallow you up and spit out the pieces.
' The next day, despite these warnings and hearing that scarred Lord Anluan seeks a scribe who can read Latin, Caitrin makes her way up the hill to the fortress in search of work and a refuge from inevitable pursuit.
hough her first encounter with Anluan, '
a man with hair like fire and skin like snow, a crooked man
', is not promising, Caitrin is hired to sort out a chamber full of records and family history. She finds a mirror that gives dark visions of Anluan's great-grandfather Nechtan and his helper Aislinn performing horrific acts to summon a ghostly army. Some of these spirits are now Anluan's loyal retainers, though most require a constant exercise of his willpower to keep them in control.
s Caitrin and Anluan seek to undo the curse on the Tor, Norman invaders make demands, viewing the site as a strategic one for control of surrounding lands. Though it seems hopeless, the living and the dead come together to fight for what is theirs and in hope of a better future. When it's over, something very magical happens. Juliet Marillier is a master fantasist and
is one of her best works, absolutely not to be missed.
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