By: George C. Myles
Publication Date: June 2012
Reviewed by: Holly Weiss
Review Date: May 4, 2013
It is the ninth century and Scotland strives to become a nation. For a thousand years, the Picts have defended their freedom and fought off intruders. What happens to the Pict culture when their land is invaded and a new religion threatens to stamp out its customs?
An intriguing cover design leads us into the story of a Pict family. Dagda returns to his happy home to relate the horrors of a Viking invasion. His wife, Elspet, worries that a dark cloud will soon “roll over almost twenty years of sunlit existence for her and her family.” Lioslaith, their daughter, has nightmares about the cruelty her father witnessed. Certain the Vikings are bent on annihilation, the Picts ally with the Scots, not realizing the first Scottish king plans to dissolve their nobility.
Lioslaith wants to return to the ancient practice of tattooing her entire body and fighting alongside the men. She and her father are at odds about sending women into battle. Eager to be trained for battle, she secretly perfects her archery. Once she is of age, she has her mother’s family symbol tattooed at the base of her spine as well as a full torso leafy vine. Alone at home because she is forbidden from combat, she finds an injured Norseman on the beach. As she nurses the Norseman, Marcus, back to health, love blooms. He tells her of the Viking belief in destiny and their religion of animal spirits and Norse Gods. Even though their origins were divergent, they share grief over their respective dying cultures.
Picts have long been depicted as barbarians. In his author’s note, George C. Myles states that his aim was to create a strong Pict female character, Lioslaith, who would dispel the deprecating barbarian stamp. The Picts in the novel try to maintain their culture (storytelling, agriculture, fishing, family loyalty, body tattooing) through fits and starts. The main characters are fully realized and are imbued with humanity. The old woman, Erca, is a character not to be missed.
The book, set in Scotland during the ninth century when the Pict reign was coming to an end, explores the story from the perspective of the Norse (the invading outsiders), the Scots, as well as the Picts. The author’s attempt to present three different viewpoints becomes confusing at times, but a cast of characters list in the beginning of the book assists the reader. His endeavor to bring to life an often-ignored part of history is admirable. He depicts the brutality of the Vikings; particularly in the way they mistreat women sexually.
While the prose is at times twisted and confusing, it is still quite readable. The inevitable change brought to the Picts is heart rending, but the homage paid them by George C. Myles is well worth exploring. Brimming with historical research, the book honors the spirit of the Pict people during this unique time in history.
Quill says: Honor trumps loss in this reverent portrayal of the Pict culture. Lioslaith resonates with pride in the Pict culture and the acceptance of change.
For more information on Lioslaith: Last of the Painted Ones, please visit the book's website at: www.lioslaith.com
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