Original Title: Against a Darkening Sky
Year Published: 2015
Published by: HarperAvenue (an arc was kindly provided via NetGalley)
Number of Pages: 368
First Sentence: “The girl held the freckled hand for hours, long past the moment it first began to grow cold.“
Goodreads Rating: 4/5
Wilona, the lone survivor of a plague that has wiped out her people, makes her way across the moors to a new life in the village of Ad Gefrin, where she is apprenticed to Touilt, a revered healer and seeress. She blossoms under Touilt’s tutelage and will one day take her place, but as an outsider, she is viewed with suspicion by all except Margawn, a warrior in the lord’s hall. When the king proclaims a conversion to the new Christian religion, Ad Gefrin becomes a dangerous place for Wilona and Touilt. Their very lives are at risk as the villagers embrace the new faith and turn against the old ways, even as Wilona’s relationship with Margawn grows. Wilona’s fate becomes intertwined with that of Egan, a monk sent to Ad Gefrin as part of the Christian mission; both will see their faith and their loyalties tested.
Torn between her deepest beliefs and a desire to belong in a confusing, changing world, Wilona must battle for survival, dignity and love against overwhelming odds. Seamlessly combining timeless choices and struggles and rich, nuanced historical detail that brings pagan Britain to life, Against a Darkening Sky is an exquisitely rendered work of fiction from one of Canada’s most acclaimed and celebrated novelists.
I actually loved this book. It was so well written and the characters were dynamic and interesting. What made me only give it a 4 of 5? The Christian thing. No, I do believe with all my heart that everyone has the right to believe in any religion but reading about religion (real ones, not fake ones) rub me the wrong way. I kept getting irritated with the Christians devoutness which, of course, tainted the reading experience.
The book is centered on two very different characters; Wilona and Egan. Wilona is a young girl when we first meet her, who has lost all of her family. She finds shelter in the village of Ad Gefrin and taken under the wing of the seithkona, the villages holy woman. Egan, on the other hand, is a young monk guided by angels. Due to his steadfast belief in Christ he finds himself distanced from the other monks, who have a hard time accepting him. Their path is crossed in the village of Ad Gefrin when Egan is sent there as an emissary. The two are contrast and comparisons to each other, one of the old ways and one of the new, but both devoted to their gods.
It is an honest tale of the hardships people must have faced way back in the days, and how confusing and even terrifying the change from the old gods to Christiany must have been.
The book is really interesting and engaging, and I did love it despite the religious thing. I felt like this could be a description of real events (but alas no, it is fictional). I bet you there are inaccuracies that history lovers will find but trust me, it doesn’t matter because it is fiction after all.
Do I recommend it?
Yes, I do. It was a great read, and if you love books set during the arrival of Christianity in England then this book is for you.