Skin is the début novel of Australian author Ilka Tampke and it is one that weaves historical fiction with fantasy. Is is the first book in a duology but I think it can definitely be read as a standalone. And, on the whole, I loved this given the fact that it was actually a cover buy on my part!
This is set in Iron Age Britain (43AD) on the brink of invasion by the Roman empire. Our protagonist, Ailia, who works in the kitchens of the Tribequeen. Ailia is unskinned, as a foundling she has no knowledge of her family and as a result of this is forbidden from learning and she is keen to do just that, she is inquisitive and bright, she longs to know her skin so she can be a journeywoman.
I really enjoyed this. It was written beautifully, I could scarcely put it down. However it was predictable. I found myself expecting what was coming, I put two and two together before things were revealed. It didn’t really spoil the book for me but I didn’t feel myself meandering with the story, I was a step ahead of it for most of the books – the twists that people in other reviews didn’t see, I saw a mile off! I don’t think that was a big problem on the whole though because the writing was beautiful and the plot was just a device to push great characters further.
The fantasy element of this was neither here nor there. I found it more spiritual than fantasy, not in a preachy kind of way but the fantasy explored is based around the spirituality of the time and I actually really liked that. As someone who has not read much fantasy at all, I found this very easy to understand and it was really interesting to read too.
On the whole I liked this book a lot and I will definitely read the sequel when it is released in the UK. While this wasn’t perfect, I’m happy to say this was a 4/5 book for me and that I would recommend it to people who like both historical fiction and a bit of fantasy, or even people who have no particular liking to either but want to try something out of their comfort zone.