WOW what an adventure! King Bridei embarks on a campaign to rid Fortriu of the Christian Gael's. This is a major undertaking involving all the chieftains of Fortriu. One of his ploys for success is to get the chieftain of Briar Wood (Alpin) and his huge fighting force to stand against the Gael's. To do this he offers marraige to his ward (hostage), Ana. The journey to Briar Wood is a major focus of the book. Ana and Faolan (King's assassin) set off with a guard in hopes of a treaty which would basically prevent Alpin from entering the war on either side. Alpin is a savage and an abusive ruler. Ana and Faolan (who have become great friends over the months of treacherous travel) enter a dangerous court and must play the game very carefully.
Ana stumbles upon Alpin's brother, Drustan, who has been Alpin's prisoner for seven years, under mysterious circumstances. After getting to know Drustan, Ana cannot help but try to find out the truth about his imprisonment. This puts Alpin on alert and suddenly Ana and Faolan, not to mention Drustan, are fighting for their lives and freedom.
A superbly written sage of love, friendship, betrayal and war. A slow read due to the many characters, plots and minute details. Absolutely wonderful.
This book reminded me a little of Foxmask. It has the same concept of hard decision making and a perilous journey with love waiting at the end. I love it and will be reading it again.
Loyalties are tested and truth must be distinguished from dangerous lies in the gritty second book of the Bridei Chronicles (after 2005's The Dark Mirror), set in a land resembling early Scotland. Hoping to gain the support of nearby chieftain Alpin of Briar Wood in the fight against the invading Dalriada, King Bridei of the Priteni sends an offer and a bride: Ana, a fosterling "hostage" from the distant Light Isles raised in his court. Bridei's personal bodyguard and spy, Faolan, accompanies Ana on the arduous journey, saving her life and struggling to control his growing feelings for her. When problems arise at Alpin's rude court, Ana secretly finds solace with Alpin's mysterious brother, Drustan, long believed to be insane, who has been imprisoned for the murder of Alpin's first wife. Skilled world-building and characterization set Marillier's historical fantasy at the head of the pack.