I try not to betray essential plot elements in my blog reviews of fiction, but deal with other features that interest me, and might interest you.
The book is entirely in the first person, with Liadan, daughter of Sorcha, the girl who rescued her brothers from their condition, enchanted swans, in the first book, as the narrator. Four of Sorcha's brothers, Liam, who now leads the household of Sevenwaters, Conor, who has become a druid priest, Padraig, who sails the known world, and Finbar, who has a swan's wing rather than one of his arms, and lives in the forest by himself, appear in the book. So do Liadan's older sister, Niamh, and her twin brother, Sean. As the book proceeds, this second generation of the family of Sevenwaters goes through great hardship, and experience love. Two of them have children.
In Foxmask, and Wolfskin, Marillier, who is not a Christian, showed considerable sympathy for Christianity. A character even told another about Christ's redeeming love. In the earlier trilogy, I did not find this. There is a little acknowledgement of the positive role of some priests and nuns during the middle ages, but there don't seem to be any Christians, under orders or otherwise, in this book. There is clear recognition of free choice, however:
I cannot believe that because he is her son, he must inevitably work evil in his life. To say that is to say we have no choice at all in what we do, in how we live. I don't believe that, Uncle. Juliet Mariller, Son of the Shadows (New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2001) p. 428. Liadan is speaking to Connor, her uncle, about Ciarán, who is also her uncle, but about her age. Lord Colum was his father by Oonagh, the sorceress.
"If you had accepted me, my path would have been different," he said bleakly. "If you find you dislike what I have become, you have only yourself to blame."
"Your actions are your own," I said, holding back my anger. "Your choices are your own. Each of us carries a burden of guilt for decisions made or not made." I saw a little image of my Uncle Liam, lying on the track with an arrow in his chest. "You can let that rule your whole life, or can put it behind you and move on. Only a madman lets jealousy determine the course of his existence. Only a weak man blames others for his own errors. Now, will you deal with me?" Juliet Mariller, Son of the Shadows (New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2001) p. 483. Eamonn is speaking with Liadan, blaming her that she rejected him for another. He has since done some evil things.
There are elements of fantasy in the book. For one, Liadan is able to share her thoughts with Sean, Liam, Finbar and Conor. (Sorcha was able to do this with Finbar and Conor, at least while they were not swans.) For another, the king and queen of the fair folk appear at critical points. It is obvious that they are not human, although, of course, they resemble them. There is also another race or two of magical people hinted at, deeply connected to the earth, or the ocean. For yet another, Finbar and Liadan have The Sight, an ability to forsee the future, or possible futures. It is a two-edged gift, because sometimes it shows what will happen, sometimes it shows what might happen, and sometimes it shows what the seer wants to happen, and it is usually impossible to distinguish among these possibilities.I think one of the characters has abilities, or good fortune, that strain the bounds of the possible. He has ability to think ahead, to lead others, to determine (by ordinary means) what others are thinking, even others he is at war with, and to find his way through all kinds of forest. All this comes in handy, though!
As in all her books, Marillier places her characters in prolonged agonizing situations, testing their sanity, their love, and other aspects of their personalities. I'm glad I read this a second time.Thanks for reading!