SON OF THE SHADOWS
Like the first book of this trilogy, Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows is long and begins slowly, but gradually becomes “unputdownable”.
When the story opens, Sorcha, the Daughter of the Forest of the first book, is living in Sevenwaters with her husband Hugh, a Briton known in Ireland as Iubdal, and her three teenage children: Niamh, the eldest, a stunningly beautiful girl, tall with red hair, and the twins Sean and Liadan. Sean is being groomed to take over the estate should anything happen to his uncle, Liam, the present Lord, who has no son of his own. Liadan, the daughter who most resembles Sorcha as she was when she was young, is the narrator:
I would catch Mother sometimes, looking at Niamh and looking at Sean and looking at me, and I knew what was troubling her. Sooner or later, the Fair Folk would decide it was time. Time to meddle in our lives again, time to pick up the half-finished tapestry and weave a few more twisted patterns in it. Which would they choose? Was one of us the child of the prophecy?
It is, of course, Liadan they choose, the Fair Folk, the mysterious Lady in blue and the Lord with flaming hair but they show no sympathy with her sister in her sufferings and nor do they approve of Liadan’s love, so Liadan rejects their advice and warnings and orders and all their scheming, and turns instead to the Old Ones, the older folk, the voices in the burial mound, once banished by the incoming Fair Folk. After all, one of her ancestors, Eithne, was of the older folk, the Fomhoire, and it is from them that they (some of them, Sorcha and Liadan, at least) get “the Sight, the healing mind“.
Magic pervades this book, as it did the first one. There is druidism and imbolc, sorcery and witchcraft, standing stones and an ancient burial mound, and among many other magical characters, a man who is half swan, one of whose arms is a great white swan’s wing, and who lives alone by a lake in the forest;
And like the first one, it is a great love-story, with a girl touched by magic as the long-suffering heroine who never gives up. If you enjoyed Daughter of the Forest, don’t miss this.
CHILD OF THE PROPHECY
Like Son of the Shadows, this third book in the trilogy does not stand alone, and should not be read unless or until you have read the first two. And it is very much the same as them. When it opens, Fainne, the daughter of Niamh of Sevenwaters and Ciarán the sorcerer, is living with her father in a home among the caves in a cliff on the remote south-west coast of Ireland. Niamh died when she was small, and she does not remember her at all. All Fainne knows in the life she shares with her father, an intensely serious and reserved man, as he trains her in the arts of sorcery – and a few days each summer when the travelling folk come and among them her only friend, the boy Darragh, who loves horses and plays the pipes and is a wonderful swimmer.
It is Fainne’s story, and like Sorcha in the first book and Liadan in the second, she has a task to fulfill which is nigh on impossible and can only be accomplished in the greatest secrecy with everyone believing the worst of her. Enough to say that Lady Oonagh, the evil sorceress (who is of course Ciarán’s mother and Fainne’s grandmother), sets out to complete the destruction of Fainne’s mother’s family, using Fainne as her brainwashed and helpless tool.
The descriptions of Ciarán teaching Fainne sorcery when she is still a little girl are amazing. For example, here he is showing her for the first time, how to use the Glamour:
‘Time to begin,’ said Father, regarding me rather severely. ‘This will be serious work, Fainne. It may be necessary to curtail your freedom this summer.’
‘I yes, Father.’
‘Good.’ He gave a nod. ‘Stand here by me. Look into the mirror. Watch my face.’
The surface was bronze, polished to a bright reflective sheen. Our images showed side by side; the same face with subtle alterations. The dark red curls; the fierce eyes, dark as ripe berries; the pale unfreckled skin. My father’s countenance was handsome enough, I thought, if somewhat forbidding in expression. Mine was a child’s, unformed, plain, a little pudding of a face. I scowled at my reflection, and glanced back at my father in the mirror. I sucked in my breath.
My father’s face was changing. The nose grew hooked, the deep red hair frosted with white, the skin wrinkled and blotched like an ancient apple left too long in store. I stared, aghast. He raised a hand. It was an old man’s hand, gnarled and knotted, with nails like the claws of some feral creature. I could not tear my eyes away from the mirrored image.
‘Now look at me,’ he said quietly.
Like the first two books, it starts so slowly you don’t know how you’re going to keep reading it, but then suddenly you don’t know how you will ever be able to stop reading it, how you are going to be able to live in a world other than this one, a world without these people.
Another wonderful novel.