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405 pages, Hardcover
First published October 2, 2009
Ita spoke in my head, her voice a derisory whisper: See the way men look at you? You’re made to be a whore, Caitrin. Be thankful Cillian wants to wed you.Without him you’d be headed down a path to ruin.There is no explicit violence in this book, but rest assured that its ghost is very much alive in our protagonist's mind and defines who she is.
The bruises on my skin—blue, black, yellow, an angry patchwork—would fade. There were other hurts, deeper ones, that would be harder to lose. You did it, Caitrin, I reminded myself. You got up and walked out.Her escape is where our book begins. We are in a time long ago and far away, when the Norman conquests were taking place in Ireland. Caitrin is a girl on the run, terrified of being found. Penniless, with only the clothes on her back and the tool she carries with her; she has been well-trained by her father as a scribe. It is how she hopes to earn a living and escape her would-be captors.
“Oh God, oh God!” someone screamed, as behind the rider a swirling mass flowed out from under the trees around the courtyard, not mist, not smoke, but something full of gaping mouths and clutching hands, something with a hundred shrieking, moaning voices and a hundred creeping, pattering feet.The Beast is a young chieftain named Anluan, who is tortured by his fate, something through no fault of his. The romance is such a slow burn, and it is a joy to watch friendship and love blossom between them. Romance is there, but I assure you it is subtle and believable.
“I hardly know what to say.” Anluan spoke with some awkwardness, as if he thought his words might offend me. “Your kinsman was right when he called me a cripple. I cannot ride, I cannot run, I cannot lead an army into battle. Not an army made up of earthly warriors of Magnus’s kind, anyway. But this force I can command. On Whistling Tor, the host is obedient to my will. While you stay here, I can keep you safe. I hope you will stay, Caitrin, now that you know the truth. We want you here. We need you.”Love and lust are written beautifully.
When Anluan had brought them rushing to my aid they had screamed, wailed, assaulted the ears. Now they were utterly silent. Not creatures of ancient legend; not devils or demons. All the same, my skin prickled as I looked at them: here a woman carrying an injured child, there an old man with a heavy bag over his shoulder, his back bent, his limbs shaking; under an oak, a younger man whose fingers clutched feverishly onto an amulet strung around his neck. There were warriors and priests here, little girls and old women. The more I gazed at them, turning to look on all sides, the more of them appeared, until the forest was full of them. Ghosts? Spirits?There are no magical wardrobes and candlesticks here. There is, however, a giant ghostly hound, a spectral monk, creatures from beyond time, and more dark magic than you can shake a stick at. This book has everything, and I truly come to love every single character in the book, living or dead.
There was an odd beauty in his isolation and his sadness, like that of a forlorn prince ensorcelled by a wicked enchantress, or a traveler lost forever in a world far from home.
"Your coming here has changed everything, Caitrin. You have opened my mind to possibilities beyond any I had dreamed of. So I fetched the books. I knew you could translate them, but...Caitrin, the idea of any action of mine causing you hurt is...it's unbearable. You are...you're like a beating heart. A glowing lamp. I've never met anyone like you before."
“Even in that time of utter darkness, somewhere deep inside me the memory of love and goodness had stayed alive.”
"You are...you're like a beating heart. A glowing lamp. I've never met anyone like you before."
“This had been real: real in its flaws and uncertainties, real in its small triumphs, real in its compromises and understanding.”
“He was sitting not far away, watching me, and I surprised a smile on his face, the first real smile I had ever seen him give, a smile that curved and softened the tight mouth, and warmed the ice-cool eyes; a smile that brought the blood to my face and made my heart turn over.”
My vow to be brave made me straighten up and face the fortification. Four or five men stood on the other side, their faces uniformly ash-white, their weapons at the ready: a pitchfork, a scythe, an iron bar, a club with spikes. ‘Away with you, scum!’ yelled one, and another added, ‘Go back where you belong, into the pit of hell!’