Desert Isle Keeper
The Stone Maiden
For a time, I could feel the mist on my face, smell the clean, cool air of Scotland, and hear the voice of the bard as he spun his tales. The sheer beauty of the legends, beliefs, and majesty of Scotland jump from the pages of this book. Very rarely does a book absorb me into the setting as completely as this one did. A very heartfelt thanks to the author whose incredible research brought magic to this story.
Alainna MacLaren has lost most of her clan in a centuries old feud with a neighboring clan, the MacNechtan’s. Alainna is desperate to save her clan and her home, Kinlochan, and dreams of a golden warrior with silver eyes who offers her salvation, but in return she must give up what she holds dear. Alainna travels to petition King William for help. She asks the king for a Celtic warrior who can save her clan and take her name, ensuring the clan’s survival. While there she briefly meets Sebastian le Bret, a warrior in service to King William. They are drawn to each other, but he is a Norman, and Alainna will not accept any help from a Norman knight, even if he does speak Gaelic.
Sebastian is an orphan from Brittany. A self made man, who has earned everything he has in life. His name is extremely important to him, since he has created his own identity. Sebastian is impatient to return to Brittany, to his son, who he left in the care of monks after his wife died. The abbey has burned, and word did not reach Sebastian in time to provide other arrangements. His son’s location is unknown, and Sebastian asks the king for help. In return, the king sends Sebastian to Kinlochan, to marry Alainna and keep the peace between the clans.
Both are unhappy with the situation. Alainna does not want to entrust her people to a Norman, even if he does resemble the warrior from her dream. Sebastian wants to return to his son and build a life in Brittany. Marriage to Alainna and remaining in Scotland is not his dream, and giving up his name is not an option for him.
It is hard to describe the depth of this story and do it justice. Sebastian and Alainna are very much alike. They both are very prideful people, conscious of their duty. Each is torn by duty and their desire, because they do desire one another, very much. Alainna is a strong heroine and an artist, a stonecarver. Her work is her solace; her responsibility as leader of her clan is one she takes very seriously. Sebastian is an honorable man, and is somewhat at a loss with the Scottish customs and beliefs, especially their belief in the Stone Maiden, the protector of Clan Laren.
The description of the Scottish warrior-poet is the heart of this story. The author does an amazing job conveying the place of the bard as the center of clan life. Poetry and stories are told each evening, which bring the Norman warriors into the heart of the clan. Some of the emotion contained in the verses brought a tear to my eye. The strange mixture of Catholicism and paganism contained within medieval Scottish beliefs is also well described.
Both Sebastian and the reader cannot help but be drawn into the magic. Alainna and her clan shake his foundation and his identity. Can he really be a part of the clan and give up the inner self he worked so hard to create? What about his dreams of living in Brittany with his son?
Alainna must learn to accept what truly will help the clan, a Norman knight, not her own ideal of a Celtic warrior. Once she realizes that, can she help Sebastian see that he will have a place in Clan Laren with his son?
Every part of this story blends seamlessly, there are no strings left dangling or unimportant details included. The secondary characters, especially the bard, all have their own special part in the weave. And the Stone Maiden, is she a product of the imagination or reality? I’ll let the reader discover that for themselves. After reading the last page of this tale, I was disappointed to discover myself in my own living room. I swore I could feel that mist and smell the heather….