Foxmask (Juliet Marillier)

This is the sequel to Wolfskin – to understand the relationships that underlay the characters, it would certainly be best to have read Wolfskin first, although this is a standalone story, not part two of two (or three), which is certainly refreshing.  I purchased this at the same time as Wolfskin, so I wasn’t then aware that I’d love that book so much.  By the time I got to reading Foxmask, though, I had reasonably high hopes for anything from Marillier.

Although I enjoyed Foxmask, it wasn’t quite as fantastic as Wolfskin.  The basic story has a lot of promise, mostly as a result of the earlier book – Somerled, the antagonist from Wolfskin, was so clearly the villain of the piece, but also clearly had the potential for redemption.  Here, we can find out whether he did manage to redeem himself – but Marillier made the sensible decision to place the story a little later in time, so that although the story answers that question, it’s not actually the central focus of the story.  That means that Foxmask is more of a standalone story than a direct sequel, which is a benefit, in my opinion.

Although Thorvald, Sam, and Creidhe are interesting characters, I was never as drawn to them as the Wolfskin characters – and the antagonist of Foxmask is far more on the black side of grey than Somerled ever was, which makes him a lot less interesting.  You can see how he might have made the decisions that he did, but they are still more evil.

The weakest part of the book was the character Keeper.  For some reason, I was never interested or attracted to this character, and that made it harder to understand the relationships that he formed with the other characters.  The strongest part was the development of Thorvald’s character, particularly the leadership development with the other men of the island.

The magic in Foxmask is a little more overt than that of Wolfskin, which also detracts slightly from the story.  It’s also a little darker in some ways (although there’s probably less death, the reader knows the characters that die or suffer better, so they are more intense).

Overall, however, this is still an excellent novel.  If this was the first Marillier novel I read, I’m not sure I would be so eager to seek out more of her work – probably I would just hope to remember to buy one next time I see it, rather than actively looking for it, but I absolutely recommend reading it, especially since it wraps up the Wolfskin story a little more.

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