4 out of 5 stars
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Rosa always dreamt of a simple life staying close to her parents in their village in Iceland but circumstances in 1686 can and do change very rapidly. Before she knows it she is swapped for a dowry and is to be married to the trader, Jón Eiríksson. She knows that she is going to be missing her Mamma and her childhood friend Pall, and she knows all the rumours about him burying his wife in the middle of the night.
Jón ‘s friend, Pétur, who is thought to be some kind of changeling or part demon by others, takes her to the remote village of Stykkishólmur where she is to join her new husband in his croft. It is a bleak and unsettling place, she can feel the evil in the landscape. He gives her a glass figurine on a necklace and a list of instructions that forbid her from talking and mixing with the other people in the nearby village and commands her to remain in the croft. The villagers are wary of outsiders and given Jon’s history, thy do not trust him.
It is a lonely life there as Jón and Pétur are often working in the fields or our fishing and she has been expressly told that she is not to mix or talk to the villagers. Jón barely talks to her too, only to bark commands and instructions to her. Their croft is unusual as it has a loft, but this is locked and she is told that she is never to enter. The thought of what went on up there with his previous wife, Anna, sends shivers down her spine. This unease turns to terror when she starts hearing noises from there. Not having anyone to comfort her, she begins to surreptitiously talk to her neighbours and it dawns on her that the rumours about her husband may well be true.
Far from home and very alone, it feels like the darkness is closing in on her and she fears that she may be her husbands next victim…
I don’t read that much historical fiction preferring to get my history from facts normally, but I do like to read the odd one now and again. This is the first of Lea’s book that I have read, and I must say that I quite liked this. She has managed to pitch it such that the dark, brooding and atmospheric coastal village feels authentic. On top of that, she has made the very atmospheric and at times really creepy. Plot-wise it isn’t too bad either, there are layers of meaning that unpeel as you go through the story. The Christian faith is present on the island and whilst its influence is strong, however, I liked the fact that the Viking and Icelandic folklore have been neatly woven into the plot, the old Gods showing that they still have power over the people. If there was one small flaw, I would have liked a little more of the landscape to shape the style of the book, as Ben Myers does with his stories. It has a stunning cover too.