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.
- Publication Date:
- 01 / 03 / 2015
- 155 x 233 x 27mm
an impressive debut
â€œHe was as dazzling and unfathomable as the night sky: in equal measure splendid and despondent, vital and injured, tender and cruel. He had an Elderâ€™s wisdom, yet the wariness of a child, and in the force of these splits, the whole earth turned within his sprawling frameâ€
Skin is the first novel by Australian author, Ilka Tampke, and the first book of a two-book series. Iron Age Britain, soon to be invaded by the Roman legions, is where fourteen-year-old Ailia works in the kitchens of the Tribequeen of the Durotriga people in the hilltown of Caer Cad. Ailia has cheated death twice: the Cookmother plucked her from the freezing doorstep soon after her birth; and she was spared from ritual sacrifice at the age of seven. But Ailia has no â€œskinâ€, no totem, having no mother to pass this on to her. Much as she craves to, tribal law dictates that, unskinned, she is forbidden to learn.
Opinion about how to face the Roman invasion is deeply divided. The learned Journeyman, Llwyd and many of the warriors believe they must fight the invaders to retain their sacred ways. But Ruther, son of one of the warriors, has seen Rome and argues that submission and cooperation will cost less lives. LLwyd believes the battle can be won with the support of the Kendra of Albion, a wisewoman who links the tribe to the Mothers (gods). But the Kendra has been absent for twenty-one summers: will she come when the Durotriga need her most?
Tampke creates the perfect blend of historical fiction with a touch of fantasy. Her extensive research into Iron Age Britain is apparent on every page, but this wealth of interesting knowledge is presented in a form that is easy to digest. Her prose is rich and beautiful. Her characters are fascinating, flawed yet striving for integrity, and their dialogue adds authenticity and the occasional gem of wisdom: â€œâ€¦fear could be fought with a curious mind. Hold questions like a torch before youâ€. While the climax is, perhaps, predictable, there are several plot twists to keep the reader guessing. This is an impressive debut from a talented author and readers will be eager to see where Tampke sends her plucky young heroine in the sequel.