"From within a mist-like smouldering flicker was a vision of the first of his many troubles."

O'Brien has crafted an edge-of-your-seat tale with a vivid, dramatic presence in this debut historical thriller. Young Kevin Neal's destiny is forged in the crucible of the Irish Rebellion. He seems perpetually accompanied by death and destruction (and many thoughts of his true love, Anty Kelly) during his childhood and young adulthood losses. Both individuals are capable, feisty, and orphaned during the siege at New Ross when Kevin's brothers and father and Anty's father ride with the star-crossed Captain John Kelly in a failed uprising against the Crown. The brutal battle is stunning and leads to the slaying by the English of Irish women and children who bore witness to the carnage. So the pair lose their mothers too.

The aftermath of the uprising brings more suffering to the countryside in the form of famine. Worse, there are predations in the woods and mountains of Wexford County thought to be caused by a púca. The mythical shapeshifting creature of Celtic folklore is said to be detrimental or beneficial or sometimes simply mischievous. But in this case, the slayings become monstrous, with entire families decimated in terrifically bloody encounters. Amidst this natural beauty and unnatural carnage, Kevin grows to be a larger-than-life hero usually found only in myth and legend.

Readers will be transported to the Emerald Isle on the steppingstones of O'Brien's descriptive narrative and the strong, engaging characters who bring the love of home, country, and one another to vivid life. If there is any flaw in the tale, it may be in the language that occasionally seems more contemporary than historical. But this also lends a more accessible and spontaneous air to the telling. The finely tuned combination of war chronicle, mystery, folklore, adventure, and romance makes this a novel that will appeal to a wide audience.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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