This long, ambitious fantasy tells Peat’s story. She and her sister Marlie eke out a precarious living, isolated both from their village and the outside world. When disease strikes the village, Peat is blamed and forced to flee for her life.
Her adventures are legion, gripping and written with huge imaginative power. When she is kidnapped by Eadie the Marsh Auntie and trained to be a storyteller she experiences a wider and stranger world than the one she inhabited, but there, as everywhere, then and now, people were driven by dark motives-greed, revenge, mistrust of strangers. Hunt is scrupulously attentive to detail-every new and remarkable world is painstakingly created and characters carefully constructed to engender belief, even in the most unlikely circumstances. The Siltboy, trapped by the Siltman with his giant hound Shadow, has his own idiosyncratic take on language which leans heavily towards the poetic but is immediate in its impact and endears him to the reader.
Hunt is careful to root her narrative in the imperatives which drive us all, giving the story a potent universality. When Eadie betrays Peat to the ruthless Siltman, she does so to save her own soul. The Siltman is capable of manipulating the environment in which he leaves to make escape for those he has captured impossible, thus guaranteeing the continuity of his workforce. However, Hunt does not forget that good is as powerful as evil and so Peat is reunited with her family, who have worked tirelessly to find her. The Sleek, animal guide and tormentor in equal measure, leads Peat and her companions safely through dangers which only he can anticipate. Siltboy finds heroism beneath his cowed exterior and even Eadie, eased into death when her soul is returned, is seen for the frail and vulnerable old lady she has become.
This is a multi-layered story-mystical and mysterious adventure, twisting and turning through secrets, truth and lies and, at the same time, providing insight into the age-old dilemmas which confront us all.