Silver Skin by Joan Lennon

Silver Skin

Written by Joan Lennon

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Shortlisted for the Scottish Teenage Book Prize 2017

The bleak but beautiful ancient village of Skara Brae on Orkney is the setting for this original and intriguing novel, and an atmosphere of otherness pervades the story. Lennon brings together the original inhabitants of the village with Rab, a young time-traveller from a distant future where pain and hunger are unknown. Their worlds could not be more different, but relationships are formed nonetheless as Rab and the villagers both fight for their survival. A skilful mix of sci-fi, historical thriller and romance with interesting, believable characters this is a book that will stay with readers for a long time. ~ Andrea Reece

Commenting on her nomination for the Scottish Teenage Book Prize Joan said: “I'm really excited to be part of the new Scottish Teenage Book Prize in its very first year. To know that Silver Skin is being read and talked about by the people it was written for is a great feeling – and I can't wait to see the book trailers!”

A Piece of Passion from Andrew Simmons, Editorial Manager, Birlinn Ltd Joan Lennon’s Silver Skin is fantastic, gripping novel in which Rab, a young time traveller from the future, accidentally ends up in the Neolithic period. One of the most extraordinary things about the book is that it is set in a real place – the prehistoric settlement at Skara Brae, one of Orkney’s most important archaeological sites. This specific context gives the book an authenticity which is lacking in many novels about the remote past, and Joan’s descriptions of places and landscapes which have changed little since the time in which her story is set help to create a vivid picture in the mind’s eye. This, combined with an exciting plot (Rab and the islanders are each involved in a race against time for their very survival) in which the suspense never flags, and a cast of well-defined characters, make Silver Skin a remarkably successful novel for young adult, and older, readers.


Silver Skin by Joan Lennon

Skara Brae, Orkney, during the Neolithic period. The sun is dying, crops are failing and the local inhabitants fear that the end of the world is near. When a strange boy appears from nowhere, dressed in an odd silver suit - his 'silver skin' - the community is thrown into confusion. Who is he, where is he from, and why has he come? Is he a selkie or seal person, a mythical being believed to have magical powers? For Cait, herself an outsider in the community, the boy, Rab, arouses a strange fascination as she finds herself strangely drawn towards him. For Voy, the Old Woman, Rab represents the only hope for the sun's regeneration, but only if his silver skin is burnt in a huge sacrificial blaze. As the pyre is built, Rab must fight for his life if he is ever to be able to return to his own time. And if he succeeds, what will be the fate of the islanders he will leave behind?

A Piece of Passion from Sally Pattle, Publicity Officer, Birlinn Ltd It’s quite hard to place Silver Skin in one genre – it’s science fiction mixed with a historical thriller, there’s a bit of teen romance and some fantasy as well – all of which together makes for an excellent story that just whips along. I was gripped from the first page and found I cared about what happened to Rab and Cait – I was rooting for them to make it together! The action switches from the far future to Victorian times before resting in the Bronze Age where Rab must come to terms with his new reality very quickly. How he copes with feeling pain for the first time and not living in an artificial space is utterly absorbing. Joan Lennon is a hugely experienced chidlren’s author, this is her first foray into YA territory and I am looking forward to reading more.


Praise for Joan Lennon

On Questors

‘. . . well-rounded characters, which change and face personal demons; there is humour, quirkiness and complexity and the worlds are vividly and excitingly realised. Definitely a writer to watch’ Book Trust

‘. . . entertaining, amusing, with carefully drawn characters and a well-thought-out plot, Joan Lennon’s sci-fi is a latter-day Gulliver’s Travels that takes the reader to delightfully imagined worlds’ Scotsman on Sunday

On The Seventh Tide

‘Throughout the story, the Scottish locations are vividly evoked. The characterisation is warm and rich. Events are compelling, inventive, exciting, and poignant by turns. The humour is frequent, intelligent, and genuinely funny. The Seventh Tide is an outstanding fantasy adventure, very highly recommended. And there’s even a heroic librarian!’ Antonia Gray, Write Away

About the Author

Joan Lennon

Joan Lennon was born in Canada and came to Scotland in 1978. She has had a wide range of jobs from ice-cream sundae constructor to piano teacher to Putzfrau at the Munich Olympics. She now lives in Fife, a Kingdom which is said to have the shape of a dog's head. If this is true, her house is on the tip of the ear, which explains a lot. She has written novels for all age groups and is attempting to break the world record for the largest number of books to include the word "ferret" somewhere in them. Joan has a husband, four tall sons, one short cat, and has decided to go on writing forever.

A Q&A with Joan on her novel, Silverskin

What was your inspiration to write this story? I can’t remember the time when I first heard about Skara Brae - I think I’ve been excited about it my entire life! It’s so irresistibly shiver-down-the-spine-inducing and evocative: an entire Neolithic village mysteriously buried in sand - completely lost and forgotten - and then, thousands of years later, dramatically revealed by a massive storm. And the structures are so intimate and show us so much about the way the people lived - but with still so many questions to be answered! It just begs to have stories told about it.
I’ve visited the site several times, but the final push to write Silver Skin came when I was doing a Live Literature visit to primary schools on Mainland. During a Q&A, one of the pupils asked me why didn’t I write a book about Orkney? So I did.

Do you have a favourite character in the book? I do have a soft spot for feisty old women, so it’d have to be Voy. She’s not me - when things get tough, she gets mad, whereas I get sad - and I admire her a lot!

What is your favourite scene or moment in the book? I think because it was the first scene I wrote, I have a special fondness for the first time we meet Cait, with her gathering bag leaking cold and wet down her back and the marram grass scratching her legs.

Are any of your characters based on yourself or people you know? Characters come out of bits and pieces of everyone I’ve ever met, heard of or read about. And bits and pieces of me. But so jumbled together I wouldn’t be able to say which parts were which.

If you could swap lives with one of your characters, who would you choose and why? No, see, I put my characters through awful things. Having said that, I wouldn’t mind having Voy’s power over people!

If your book was a film, who would you cast for the lead character? That’s a hard one. Benedict Cumberbatch wouldn’t really fit anywhere, but could he just come for a chat anyway?

Why are books important in your opinion? There are loads of wonderful quotes about why books are so important, about how they teach us empathy and set us free from small-mindedness and other bad stuff. I guess they’re just basically essential.

What inspired you to become a writer? I’m crazy about stories, and there a large number of people who live in my head, so a job that combined the two was always going to be perfect for me. Oh, and words. I’m crazy about words.

What’s your favourite book, and why? I am rubbish at favourites. As soon as I choose one, seven others start clamouring for pride of place. No. Just can’t do it.

Who are you generally writing for? Different story ideas just come with different genres, sizes, voices and audiences. They pretty much can only be what they are.

Where would you like to be right now, anywhere in the world? Venice. Or Orkney.

If you weren’t a writer, what would your ‘dream’ occupation be? No, sorry, writing is my dream occupation.

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Book Info


208 pages


Joan Lennon
More books by Joan Lennon

Author's Website


Birlinn Ltd an imprint of Birlinn General

Publication date

16th June 2015




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