|North American cover |
(Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's)
Ailia is a young woman without “skin,” or totem. Her family is unknown; she was discovered as a swaddled newborn on the doorstep of her Tribequeen’s kitchen in the year 28 AD, and raised by a servant called Cookmother. By the time she’s fourteen, Ailia has grown to recognize the disadvantages of her skinlessness, for skin is the very fabric of one’s social existence.
|Australian cover |
Although Ailia may lie with a young man at the Beltane fires (and does), she’s unlikely to marry. Others in her matriarchal tribe aren’t allowed to educate her, either, although she picks up cooking and healing techniques by watching others. Naturally, one of her primary goals is discovering her identity, especially when it becomes clear, by means of a supernatural visitation, that she was chosen for a greater destiny by the Mothers, the ancestral guardians of the Celtic lands. And if ever the people of the Durotriga need a strong leader, it’s now. The Romans are primed to invade, and other tribal kings and queens of Albion are divided on their approach to the would-be conquerors.
Fans of traditional historical fiction should be aware that the novel spends much time within the spiritual realms. As a longtime fantasy reader, though, I found it fascinating to see how goings-on in the Mothers’ world influenced events in the “hardworld,” that is, on earth. The dramatic ending, while in tune with history, unfolds swiftly, and, in my view, with an insufficient level of intensity. I also had a sense early on, as is common with fantasy fiction, that this novel was only the beginning of Ailia’s story, and this guess turned out to be right. According to the author’s bio, a sequel is in the works.
Daughter of Albion was published in the US and Canada by Thomas Dunne, an imprint of St. Martin's, in April in hardcover ($25.99/C$36.99). I've also included the covers for the British and original Australian editions, for which the title is different. This is my first 2016 entry for the Australian Women Writers Challenge; I'm way behind but catching up!