I had planned to review Hidden in the Mists by Christina Courtenay later this month. However, as it is shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association‘s Fantasy Romantic Novel Award 2023, I’ve brought the review forward.
Review: Hidden in the Mists
Set on the west coast of Scotland, Hidden in the Mists weaves together two narrative threads. It does this seamlessly, moving between 2022 and AD890.
Stressed and isolated, Skye Logan is looking out over the shore close to her home. She sees a hazy female figure in strange clothing jump out of a boat. The woman carries a sack into nearby woodland.
Bleak Present and Dark Ages
Skye puts the vision down to stress and lack of sleep. Her soon-to-be ex-husband Craig has abandoned her, after alienating half the locals.
The woman Skye saw, Ásta ThorfinnsdÓttir, was off to bury the wealth of her father, Thorfinn. He has died, leaving Ásta alone, and in danger from her horrible cousin Ketill. The hoard should have guaranteed Ásta the loyalty of the men who had supported her father. Ketill has other ideas. Knowing that Thorfinn’s men killed innocent people to amass his treasure, Ásta cannot bring herself to profit by it. She even casts away a gold arm ring given to her by her father.
Skye employs drifter Rafe to help her on the smallholding for a few weeks during the summer of 2022. He is a useful jack-of-all-trades. Skye and Rafe are drawn to each other, despite each of them having guilty secrets. Skye doesn’t want to admit to anyone that her marriage has broken down. Rafe is escaping from a past which eventually catches up with him.
Viking Ketill wants Ásta to run his household, when she should be leading the settlement. Óttarr, kidnapped as a teenager by Ásta’s father, burns with the need to take revenge on his kidnappers. Two exciting climaxes, one in Skye’s world and one in Ásta’s, bring Hidden in the Mists to a satisfying conclusion.
A Great Read
I thoroughly recommend this book. Hidden in the Mists combines the dual timelines perfectly, and the heroines and their heroes are believable and likeable. Their intertwined stories are rich with detail. Christina Courtenay describes smallholding and foraging well, and I couldn’t resist Skye’s dogs, Pepsi and Cola.
I loved the Viking-period detail. Things like Ásta’s bitter curse The trolls take Ketill, and bathing wounds in sea-water really stuck in my mind.
There was only one thing about Hidden in the Mists I didn’t care for. That was Rafe’s man-bun. I like contemporary heroes to have short hair!