When I looked at the front cover of The Secret of Skara Vhore, I was expecting to jump into a novel that was instantly other-wordly and pure fantasy. However, in the beginning at least, it all seems very realistic, albeit slightly chaotic, as a series of seemingly unrelated events are described in quick succession - a house intentionally burnt to the ground with a family inside, a boy awakening from a deep sleep, a little girl discovered sobbing next to a dead body ...
The little girl is called Katie and, after a rather traumatic childhood spent in a series of care homes, she is about to be reclaimed by distant family on the remote Scottish island of Farinsay. Angus and Ailee are warm and welcoming but there is lots of whispering in corners when they think Katie isn't listening and she soon becomes aware that she has powers and a destiny that she was totally unaware of. When watching the fire, for example, she will mentally travel through the flames and smoke to another place (or another time?) where, like a ghost, she can observe and hear everything that is going on. As she pieces together her own forgotten history and discovers more about her role in an epic battle of good versus evil, it is in some ways a classic coming-of-age novel. The fantasy elements are interwoven with totally realistic episodes where Katie and her new friends roam around in the Scottish countryside, getting to know each other, their surroundings and some of the well-kept secrets of the Scottish isle. This balance helped to keep things grounded and made me feel more connected with the characters than in many fantasy novels.
It's a classic but thrilling story of the battle between good and evil, with one girl and her friends taking on the responsibility for banishing the chaos and destruction that will otherwise reign. It explores the themes of friendship, close family bonds and loyalty and the rugged and wild Scottish landscapes are the perfect backdrop for such an intense and powerful struggle.
As would be expected, Katie fulfils her destiny and goodness wins through, but as this is the first book in a trilogy, I've no doubt the evil forces will be back for round two !
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £9.99
Disclosure : I received the book in order to write an honest review.