Series: Song of the Kendra #1
Published by Text Publishing on February 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
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Southwest Britain, AD 43.
For the people of Caer Cad, ‘skin’ is their totem, their greeting, their ancestors, their land.
Ailia does not have skin. Abandoned at birth, she serves the Tribequeen of her township. Ailia is not permitted to marry, excluded from tribal ceremonies and, most devastatingly, forbidden to learn. But the Mothers, the tribal ancestors, have chosen her for another path.
Lured by the beautiful and enigmatic Taliesin, Ailia embarks on an unsanctioned journey to attain the knowledge that will protect her people from the most terrifying invaders they have ever faced.
Set in Iron-Age Britain on the cusp of Roman invasion, Skin is a thrilling, full-blooded, mesmerising novel about the collision of two worlds, and a young woman torn between two men.
Ailia is a foundling, without a place in society and not allowed to undertake the learning that she yearns for. The Mothers, the mysterious guardians of her people, have other ideas, calling Ailia to their realm to teach her the knowledge she will need to lead her people against the invading Romans. War is coming.
Pre-Roman Britain – with its hill forts and druids, it’s fascinating to speculate what such an ancient culture may have actually been like, although occasionally the stories can be hard to read due to their human sacrifices and brutal wars. Plus, there’s the fact that you know there’s no happy endings.
Skin is no exception, but it makes up for its darkness with extraordinarily beautiful sections about sacred learning and the fabric that makes up the world. What makes this story even more special is that it’s based on a real place – the hill fort of Caer Cad stands on the present-day Cadbury Castle in Somerset, these days no more than a grassy hill surrounded by banks and ditches.
Ancient Britain is a strange and barbaric world in some ways but one where women are honored. Until the brutality of the Roman legions came along it sounded quite idyllic, but I’m sure they had their share of difficult times. I’ve previously read Manda Scott’s Boudica series so the names of the tribes are familiar and some of the practices are similar. Ailia is not Boudica (at least, not yet), but she is a beautiful soul who I feel will grow into a great leader for her people in their darkest hour.
Skin is a beautiful coming-of-age story that, while fairly slowly paced, never stalls. Ilka Tampke’s debut is a sensuous mix of the mystical and the mundane of Iron age life, and I can’t wait to see what’s next in store for Ailia and her people.
– A rich and detailed story of Britain in the first century AD.