Some reviews from around the world of Skara – and do let us know how if you enjoy the book.
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'This is just the first impression - some of the descriptions, take me right there -
"Black polished pebbles with painted circles replaced the stifled eyes that once observed fish in dark waters: Eels reaching from their muddy lairs, and finally, the glint of a swiftly advancing spear".
That gave me a tremble, in my back. It's like T.H. White, describing Arthur being other creatures - and that's a compliment!
And Wrasse, trying to breathe, detaching, taking herself to somewhere else - the only way to survive, sometimes.
I'd say that it would be a good idea, for couples, or friends, to buy a copy each, so they can talk about it, as they read it... it could be an idea.... That's because I'm full of wanting to say "And, what about that bit?" and I can't, because it would spoil it... So, I would seriously encourage people to read it, at the same time, so that they can... well... more or less... gossip, about the characters, and what's happening.
As I often say... who needs soaps?
Skara by Andrew Appleby. On sale 1 June 2015 in paperback (£12.99) and ebook (£3.99). Appleby Books / Burgess Publishing www.skarabook.com.
Andrew Appleby is known to all of us as the Harray Potter and also as an innovative and iconoclastic archaeological thinker. Now he has written a striking work of fiction which is rooted in his creative theories and specialist knowledge. Skara is the first book of a planned epic series, set in Neolithic Orkney. Its strong narrative plot draws on the author’s imaginative and empathic understanding of how it was to live in these islands so long ago – what problems the inhabitants faced through inbreeding, their relationships with artefacts, food and nature, their joys and jealousies, feasts and storms.
The characters are sympathetically drawn – the elderly all-seeing Wrasse, her daughter-in-spirit Shala, and the approaching hero-from-over-the-ocean Oiwa. They are given verisimilitude by Appleby’s knowledge of what raw materials were to hand for our Neolithic ancestors and his creative leaps in describing how they might have used them:
“This piece is perfect. I can dress it with my basalt scrapers, leave the handgrip thick, and whittle long, willow leaf-shaped arms. I’ll whip it below the string notches with sinew and thong to prevent splitting. I can make a fine crosshatch on the grip and up the face of the bow and inlay it with that inviting haematite. Then I’ll oil it with goose fat.”
Appleby’s use of language is distinctly his own voice, which nevertheless has resonances with Old English poetry and the Orkneyinga sagas:
“The wind quickened. Faster, stronger, Kull blew. Seaweed and sand flew. The vile ember in Wrasse’s roof kindled, sinking its fiery fangs deeply into her thatch. Fingers of wind teased, giving it flaming children to hold hands, rejoicing in wicked flame.”
Skara has a large cast of characters. It follows the two chief young protagonists in turn as they overcome natural, spiritual and man-made disasters, with the assistance of their guiding helpers, their own strengths and their developing maturity. Without giving anything away, the ending is skillfully crafted, to be satisfying in its own right but to point naturally to the next volume.
Andrew Appleby is no stranger to writing – a weekly column in The Orcadian, and articles in the Orkney Archeology Society’s journal, to name a few examples – but this work of fiction is a new venture for him, which has been years in the making.
Skara will find an appreciative audience in lovers of imagined history, of Orkney and of our Neolithic past. It also reads as a romantic adventure, and its fans will be looking forward to the second book in the series.
Educational Psychologist; Author, Supervisor and Trainer in
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