books

Morgan Llywelyn

Books

Lion of Ireland (1981), Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish (1984), Red Branch (1989), Last Prince of Ireland (1992), The Elementals (1993), Finn MacCool (1994), 1916 (1998), 1921 (2001)

Anthologies: Emerald Magic (2004)

 

Fantasy based upon Irish history and folklore. I really enjoy her books and would recommend them to anyone who enjoys folktales and mythology, as here stories borrow from those elements, with the exception of 1916, which is historical fiction set in Ireland in 1916 during the Easter Rising.

Lion of Ireland (1981)

Lion of Ireland recounts the story of Brian Boru, one of the greatest kings of Ireland. He sought to unite all the small kingdoms and dispose of the petty rivalries that allowed the Norsemen to repeatedly plunder Irish cities.

This was an interesting book--I love historical novels and fantasies, and Morgan Llywellyn is very good at them.

But. About a third of the way through this book I found myself wishing it would hurry up and end. I finished the book, but I read rather quickly through the last third, glossing over detail.

Part of the frustration may have been Gormlaith. I didn't like her, and by the time she meets Brian, any attempts to humanize her have come far too late.

I do realize that she was working with history here, so there wasn't a lot she could necessarily do with the fact that I didn't like Gormlaith, but I guess I found the attempt to redeem Gormlaith jolting and annoying. I didn't like her, and I didn't see how any good could come of her. So why were we bothering with her so much?

It was, unsurprisingly, a sad book. To say that "everybody dies" wouldn't be too far fetched. I was expecting Brian to die at the end of the book--after all, this is the story of his life so the book should end in his death--it was just depressing to watch everyone else die along the way. Again, I know that when dealing with historical figures you can't just have someone live if they didn't actually live, but... jeesh. So don't pick this book up if you're in the mood for a happy ending.

I liked some of the characters very much, especially Brian, which is why I kept reading the book. But as I said, I really disliked Gormlaith and just didn't want to read about her. The storytelling was good, but I found it odd that some threads were started and then dropped. For instance, I kept wondering what happened to Donogh's siblings and what happened to Niamh.

I also found it difficult to judge how much time was passing. I kept finding myself surprised at how your or how old Brian was, because I kept losing track of his age. It wasn't a huge problem, but it was distracting.

So, it was a good story, with interesting characters, but there were flaws that caused problems for me, especially in the second half of the book. If you like books about historical Ireland, you'll like this book, although you may not love it, but I definitely prefer other of Morgan Llywelyn's books, particularly 1916.
Rating: 5/10

 

Anthologies

 

Emerald Magic (2004) edited by Andrew M. Greely

This book first caught my eye because I didn't expect to see Andrew Greeley's name in the fantasy section. Then I looked at the list of authors who wrote in this anthology: Charles de Lint, Diane Duane, Elizabeth Haydon, Morgan Llywelyn, Judith Tarr, Peter Tremayne, Jane Yolen. Even one of those names would have been enough inducement for me to pick up the book--but all those? And more!

Irish mythology, folktales, and fantasy. What more could I want?

Every story I read was excellent, although I did skip L.E. Modesitt Jr's science fiction story (I am rarely in the mood for science fiction.)

Herself - Diane Duane
Speir-Bhan - Tanith Lee
Troubles - Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple
The Hermit and the Sidhe - Judith Tarr
The Merrow - Elizabeth Haydon
The Butter Spirit's Tithe - Charles de Lint
Banshee - Ray Bardbury
Peace in Heaven - Andrew Greeley
The Lady in Grey - Jane Lindskold
A Drop of Something Special in the Blood - Fred Saberhagen
For the Blood Is the Life - Peter Tremayne
Long the Clouds Are Over Me Tonight - Cecilia Dart-Thornton
The Swan Pilot - L.E. Modesitt, Jr
The Isle of Women - Jacqueline Carey
The Cat with No Name - Morgan Llywelyn

I probably would have recognized Charles de Lint's writing without seeing his name on the story. The Butter Spirit's Tithe is set in Newford (another giveaway that this is a de Lint story). Conn O'Neil has accidentally angered a butter spirit, and has to figure out how to remedy the situation, especially when the butter spirit claims that Conn will be his tithe to the devil.

I loved Elizabeth Haydon's The Merrow. It's the story of a mermaid marriage to a human, and even talks of the old tales where a sailor or fisherman hides a mermaid's item of power to keep the mermaid in her human form--and keep her as his wife. The tale is set during the Irish potato blight, as one town is trying to survive and concludes that traveling to America is the only way they'll survive.

The Hermit and the Sidhe by Judith Tarr was wonderful. Catholicism and faerie run through many Irish folktales and stories, and this tale brings the two together and into conflict.

I was quite surprised by Peter Tremayne's story For the Blood is the Life. I love his mysteries, and would never have guessed that this story--set in Modern Ireland--was one of his. On a similar vein to Peter Tremayne's story was Fred Saberhagen's A Drop of Something Special in the Blood.

Cecilia Dart-Thornton's Long the Clouds Are Over Me Tonight was a retelling of another familiar story from the Fionn mac Cumhail tales, and one I've read in other folktales. You know how things are going to turn out, yet you keep hoping things will be different this time. In this tale things were different, though in the way I'd expected.

This is an anthology that I will come back and read again, so if you're wondering whether you should make the purchase, my recommendation if definitely YES!
Rating: 8/10

 



 

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