The Last Bear

Written by Mandy Haggith
Review by Ann Oughton

Brigid is the last in a long line of medicine women; she lives alone in the forest since she has been banished from the local community by James, the priest and brother-in-law of the headman, Bjorn.

One thousand years ago, the Vikings are settled in the North West Highlands of Scotland, and the spread of Christianity clashes with the old pagan beliefs; conflicts arise and loyalties become confused. In her forest home, Brigid watches and marks the changes and their effects on the people and their world as the new ways encroach on the community, even into the forest. With the death of the last bear, the world is changed forever. There is no escaping the long-term effects that man imposes on his environment – a theme that resonates today.

Beautifully written, this is a wonderful mix of legend and historical romance: a moving and exciting first novel from a fine writer.