Ailia has no Skin. She doesn’t know who her parents were, and so she cannot learn or do anything in society. Like any other untutored woman, she wants to learn more of the world – and in learning more of the world she will either save or destroy it.
I could accuse this book of taking a slow pace of progression, and spending too much time on the details. But I wouldn’t, because it’s deftly crafted in that I didn’t feel the passage of time (just as Ailia does in the Mothers’ world) and I slipped fluidly from scene to scene. The world building, while it has the support of being crafted on a real-world geography, felt nicely fleshed out, despite focusing on such a small part of a landscape.
Ailia is all you could want in a gritty heroine. Like others of her kind, she is different from the rest of the community. But she is able to reach out past that – she isn’t always lonely, other people still see some good in her. Despite not being able to completely be treated like a true member of society, she has friends, she’s protected to some extent, and for what she is, she has a good place in life. She doesn’t mean to go off-track, it just happens!
It’s amazing how often I am drawn to historical fantasies without realizing it. This novel takes fact and fiction and intertwines them in a manner that means you can’t see how history could have happened without magic.
While I could predict some of what Ailia’s journey would be, other parts of the novel surprised me. I didn’t see a number of twists coming (although many of them appeared to happen from the same instance), but they were nicely woven into the rest of the storyline, and there wasn’t anything that came completely out of nowhere.
What frustrated me was the comment from Isobelle Carmody on the back, saying this novel had something to do with human yearning. No! This novel is so much more than that! While Ailia wants to learn things, that doesn’t mean she’s a love-sick idiot. She knows exactly what she should expect from life, and instead of yearning after it, she goes and does it.
I finished this novel on a very satisfied note. No, not everything turned out the way the reader might expect, but at the same time it was so so satisfying. I didn’t feel like the author had set it up to be a cash cow and write more sequels, I felt like she had reached the end of that saga, sat back, and been pleased with her work.
This novel suckered me in. I should have been doing some housework, and instead I sat down with a doona and a cup of tea to read this novel. 4.5 stars from me, simply because I’m not sure it’s good enough for a reread. Otherwise, highly recommended.