Songwoman (Skin #2) by Ilka Tampke

Posted On 22 November 2018

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SongwomanSongwoman is the sequel to Skin and based on historical events of the time is a story that is absolutely fascinating to read and rich with description.  I really enjoyed this although I would point out that this isn’t a fantasy novel which is more often than not the type of book I review on here.  There is of course an element of mysticism, talk of Journeymen/women and the Mothers and the Isle of Albion seemed to be almost bewitched, at least outsiders seemed to view it in that way – but, at the end of the day, mist rising from a stream in a valley isn’t dragon’s breath and swords and sorcery are not contained within these pages.

Songwoman starts out more or less a year after the conclusion of Skin.  I don’t think it’s essential to read the first book as I think this reads as a self contained and gripping historical novel however reading Skin will definitely give you a greater understanding of Ailia and the events from her past that haunt her still.  If you haven’t read the first but intend to do so then perhaps stop reading this review as it may contain spoilers.

The story here follows a War King known as Caradog.  Caradog continues the rebel movement against the Roman invasion and Ailia, after having spent a year of self imposed exile in the wilds makes her way to his Welsh camp to aid his efforts by bringing the support of the Mothers.  The Romans are determined to eliminate any remaining hopes of thwarting their rule and send in a new and ruthless Roman General, Scapula.  The events depicted in Songwoman are a fictional account of what took place and the author mentions that the timeline has been altered in order to accommodate the story but otherwise many of the characters depicted played a real role in the history of Albion.

Ailia doesn’t find quite the welcome at the King’s camp that she anticipated.  Caradog’s own Journeyman, Prydd, is a funny onion – by which I mean he seems to have his own agenda and part of that includes reducing Ailia’s role to little more than that of a figurehead.  Ailia has her work cut out to do anything useful but eventually her persistence pays off and she finds Caradog relying more and more on her help and advice.  Another character from the camp who plays a vital role in Ailia’s story is Rhain, Songman of Caradog.  He helps Ailia to focus and to find her true goal.  By teaching her the nature and role of ‘song’ Ailia finds a way to keep the Mothers and the spirit of Albion alive and strong.

In terms of the characters.  I guess you could say there is an element of sadness almost to many of them but then living with war and brutality for so many years, seeing the things you value stamped into the mud, well, it has a toll.  Caradog is an enigmatic leader but at the same time suffers from what can only be described as depression and self doubt.  Why does he persist in battle, are his own ambitions what he really cares about, why keep fighting with the amount of lives lost when a truce can be formed?  Ailia herself condemns herself for the events in book 1 although realistically she can’t truly be blamed.  Her guilt and fear of detection come across strongly.  She feels like a lonely character but at the same time she has determination and grit, particularly when she realises the bitter irony of the role she must eventually play.

If you know anything about Roman history and particularly in relation to Albion then you’ll no doubt be aware of the conclusion but regardless of whether or not you guess the outcome for the characters involved I would still recommend reading this and I would also suggest not trying to second guess the outcome as I failed quite miserably in my attempt to do so.  The detail about the way of life, the battles, the countryside, the struggles, they’re so well written. For me, the most fascinating aspect of the book was reading of the clashes, the treachery and the eventual outcome.  Ailia and Caradog’s roles almost played second fiddle to that because the events here are so well portrayed and clearly well researched.

I’m not going to go into too much more detail.  I think if you enjoy reading historical novels, if you have a love of Roman history, if you enjoy reading of events that are depicted vividly and imaginatively, if you would enjoy reading a fictionalised story of real characters who fought with strength and passion for a world that they felt a great connection to then this could be just what you’re looking for.  It’s an impressive piece of work to say the least.

I don’t really have any criticisms to be honest.  As mentioned above this isn’t really a fantasy novel although there are spiritual type moments.  I think the writing is evocative, the descriptions made the world and characters pop off the page and maybe some readers might find this slows down the plot a little but I loved it.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.


12 Responses to “Songwoman (Skin #2) by Ilka Tampke”

  1. Tammy

    It’s been a long time since I read something purely historical, and I do like the sound of this. The cover is beautiful and I can feel my stress melting away as I look at it😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      It is a great cover – quite different in style than the first, and I think the story is a different style too. Very well written though and I loved all the detail.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I don’t know much about this time period/subject, so this is pretty fascinating. I like how there’s just a touch of mysticism too, that’s actually how I like my historical fiction 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      I loved reading this – some aspects more than others. It’s a fascinating period of history and I feel like I’ve not read anywhere near enough about it.
      Lynn 😀

  3. bkfrgr

    Oh my goodness, a friend of mine passed Skin onto me about a month ago. I haven’t read it yet, but you’ve just made me a heap more interested in it! Great review. 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed both books – they are quite different in some respects. I loved all the detail about the way of life. The idea of people being born into a particular skin (which I kind of read as being similar to a clan. Really well researched and good writing.
      Lynn 😀

  4. waytoofantasy

    Great review! I hadn’t heard of these, but I do enjoy historical fiction as well so I’ll keep these in mind!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I’ve really enjoyed both – it’s a period of history that I find fascinating and there doesn’t seem to be that much written from the time – probably due to lack of knowledge and facts. This felt really well researched and it was quite intriguing.
      Lynn 😀

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