Skin is more than just skin to the people of Caer Cad. It is their identity, their history, their culture. Without skin you are are nothing. Ailia does not have skin.
Ailia was abandoned as a baby outside the kitchens of a tribal Queen. The Cook Mother took her in and treated her as her own. Ailia grew to be clever and beautiful but as a foundling she lacked Skin. Without Skin she cannot marry, learn or take a full part in society.
Rome snaps at the shores of Iron Age Britain but lucrative trade deals and troublesome tribes make invasion not worth the effort. The uneasy truce is thrown into jeopardy when the leading appeasing tribal leader dies.
Ailia is chosen by Ruther, newly returned from Rome and dazzled by the Empires cosmopolitan ways, at the Beltane festival. The pair share a physical passion but differ in their views of an impending Roman invasion. So far, so conventional. Then the whole story takes on an edge of magic realism. Wise women, mythical lakes, obscuring mists and shape-shifting men begin to populate the story.
Will Ailia find her skin or does Ruther love her enough even without it?
I loved ‘Skin’ the whole book is sufficiently grounded in real history to let the story and mysticism shine through. Ultimately the book is about love, belonging and change. What especially appeals to me is that the end is not syrupy but reflects the fact that we all have to live with the consequences of our actions.
Skin by Ilka Tampke
Published by Hodder and Stoughton
Paperback £7.99, Kindle £6.99