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Dark Times and Dark Hero in Magical Old Ireland
“He killed the first man with his bare hands.”
That first line of the novel is definitely an attention grabber! Previous to these words, there was a small description of the history of Fal, which is a magical version of Dark Ages (I’m guessing) Ireland. In that description supposedly taken from an ancient text, we are told that five kings and queens ruled Ireland, and they gathered at the Stone of Destiny at Tara. When Queen Nora touched the stone, it’s roar was throughout the land, and so she was made High Queen, presiding over the five kings and queens as well as having five Guardians. Four of the Guardians are more interested in diplomacy, while the fourth, Berengar, is not. He’s the one who’s been tasked with killing the leader of the Black Hand, a notorious band of thieves and killers. The scene started by the quote above is gripping in its shocking violence and gruesome in the treachery of the Black Hand that it reveals. Strange things start to occur, deepening the mystery of what evils Fal is up against.
What other tasks will Berengar face? What does his queen think of his tactics and finds? What evil haunts the land? What will Berengar and the Queen do about it?
I appreciated that the author gave the relevant set up in the very quick description before the main text started. The wording of this supposed quote from an ancient text, too, help set the tone for this book of mythical and magical proportions. Berengar is a complex protagonist. He can act with incredible violence but also with gentle compassion, often risking his life saving others. He also avenges those who have been mistreated.
If you don’t mind the violence and enjoy tales about strange howls from dark places, dungeons of death, evil witches, and headless riders, you will find this fictional version of a magical old Ireland a compelling read.