The Island House had all the elements of a good story that I love: archaeology, dual story lines, and a bit of romance mixed in with a good story in which not everything always ends up happily ever after.
Freya Dane arrives on the island of Findnar off the coast of Scotland after her estranged father drowns in a New Year's Eve boating accident. He's lived on Findnar by himself for years, and has left it all to Freya. Both of them are archeologists, and Freya soon finds that her father was quite busy amassing artifacts and endless notes from digs he was making on the island. Expecting to stay for only a week or so and then sell the island, Freya is quickly caught up in her father's obsession with the island and all of the questions posed by his finds: Who lived there, and when? Both Freya and her father find evidence of early Christians, Pagans, and Vikings.
And then there are the visions Freya begins to have on the island, and most important, when she runs into Daniel Boyne--the man her father saved the night he died. Her quest to uncover the mysteries on the island are tied into Daniel, and the local librarian Katherine soon becomes involved helping to solve the puzzles that are quickly accumulating and racing towards an incredible reveal.
Oh--but there's more! The heartbreaking story of Bear and Signy. Signy is a young girl who travels to Findnar with her older sister to worship at the stones ( a smaller version of Stonehenge). They do this on the down low, as monks and nuns have taken up residence on the island, built an abbey, and are working on spreading Christianity to the pagan world that surrounds them. The Christians do not like the Pagans coming to the island to worship and try to drive them off when they see them.
Signy's world is forever altered when she spies Viking raiders landing on the island. She hides with her sister, and witnesses the horrors of fire, murder, and utter pillage of the Christian settlement. But the tragedy touches Signey, and her sister is murdered by the Vikings. Signey is left on the island with no way to return to her family, and unwilling to leave her sister's grave.
Bear is a young Viking who has been caught in the fire and gravely injured. He's left for dead, but survives with half of his face scarred by the flames. The remaining monks and nuns reluctantly take in the two young children--one a Viking, the other a pagan. This critical act sets Bear and Signy on a journey of love, loss, and heartbreak. And--their story is told through the artifacts Freya is finding centuries later on Findnar.
I loved this book! It reminded me of Susanna Kearsley and Barbara Erskine, two of my favorite authors. Posie Graeme-Evans really did her homework on this one--the archeology is well researched and shows a fascinating time when the Pagan and the Christian worlds were colliding.
It will be out in paperback at the end of June, and also available as an e-book.
Rating: 5/5 Great story, archeological detail is just enough without being overwhelming, and the characters are well written and hard to forget.