I had a substantial amount of feelings about this book – it’s one that I felt I had to review pretty much as soon as I finished it. Well, with a three or four day delay, because I’m lazy and I waited for the weekend, but hey, it’s pretty fast, for me. There are books I read in January that are still awaiting review.
So this book, I should probably mention, is written by a woman who plays in the same community orchestra as I used to, and is also a facebook friend of mine. Thus, I’ve been pointed towards it on facebook, so I downloaded it onto my kindle.
At first glance, it seems like the kind of book which I’d love – I really enjoy books set in Ireland, written by Irish people (if not written by Irish people or people with an understanding of Ireland, I’m less enthusiastic, see here). I love mythology – you only have to look at how much I enjoyed the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series, as well as the Starcrossed trilogy. Equally I enjoyed the Ink Exchange series (and not just because a major character had my name) and its depiction of fairy courts. Mythology (and not just Greek mythology) is something which has always interested me, and fiction about the crossover between modern and ancient mythology is right up my alley. Thus, the blurb for Of Heroes and Kings seemed equally suited for me to love it.
When Rían Breasel, a promising Irish journalist, attracts the interest of Seth Morand, a successful American businessman now living in Ireland, she initially rebuffs his attentions. But it’s not only Seth who has his sights set on her. Brehon McCormac, a Druid of an ancient Celtic order reveals her heritage and her ancient royal bloodline. Yet, despite dismissing the old man’s claims, she finds herself pulled into his world, also discovering Seth is not who he initially appears to be. In an effort to prove the old man wrong, Rían agrees to go with him to the Lia Fáil, the Stone of Destiny, at Tara, Co Meath to perform the ancient ceremony of the Ard Rí (High King). Here Rían and Seth’s lives are changed completely… Of Heroes and Kings is an urban fantasy, intertwining Celtic mythology with the modern world, setting ancient enemies on a collision course.
The thing was, though, while the story of this was pretty interesting, and had a lot of plot points from Irish legends, notably the Rúraíocht, the Ulster Cycle, which means Cú Chulainn, the Morrígan, Nemain and Badb, etc etc, as opposed to Fionn, Oisín, etc. It pulled in points which I remember from primary school legends, like the curse of Macha and lots about Cú Chulainn. Plot-wise, while not stunning, it was thoroughly enjoyable, and if I were basing this review on plot alone, it would’ve been a four star review. Probably. I might have deducted one for the throwaway line at the end which is clearly a setup for a sequel a generation later.
I had a massive, massive issue with this book, though, and that was the editing. The book was, no joke, so badly edited that at times it was hard to read. Dangling clauses were treated as full sentences, points of view changed mid-sentence, personal pronouns were used without distinction between characters of the same gender, and so many more things. At times, I genuinely struggled to read this book, because the standard of writing was poor.
Perhaps to say that the standard of writing was poor is unfair. In fact, it is unfair. There was lots of beautiful imagery in this book, and when it hit its stride, the writing was smooth and flowing, and really gave me no pause for thought beyond adding to the story. The problem was that this didn’t happen half as often as it should have.
It’s rare that the editing of a book is so poor that I’ll knock a star off, but in this case, I really feel like it detracts wholly from the story. It irritated me to no end – there shouldn’t be instances where a sentence changes point of view midway through, or where the subject changes mid-sentence. There were several instances where I had to re-read entire paragraphs trying to distinguish one ‘he’ from another ‘he’ and it was truly frustrating.
I wasn’t entirely convinced on the translations of some of the Irish either, although it’s been so long that I can’t be particularly picky on that.
Also, the author, a born-and-bred Irishwoman, referred to the Irish language (via an Irish character) as Gaelic, which is just unacceptable. I absolutely cannot countenance that – no Irish person would ever, ever say ‘nice touch with the Gaelic’ to another Irish person. It’d be ‘nice touch with the Irish’, or ‘nice touch with the Gaeilge’.
Lastly, far too much time was given over to describing how people got places – I don’t need to know that Heuston is two kilometres away from O’Connell street, while Connolly is just down the road, and Bus Áras (which was also misspelled) is next to Connolly. I already know these facts, and if I didn’t, it wouldn’t affect my enjoyment of the book. Reading descriptions of how to get from O’Connell Street to Bus Áras, though, is dull and detracts from the plot.
I would love to give this book four stars. The story was almost up to that standard. However, the poor standard of editing, the slightly unrealistically fast falling in love, the lengthy descriptions of directional boredom and the occasional oddly non-Irish phrase in a book written by an Irishwoman (sidewalk? Gaelic??) combined to make me sorely disappointed in what could’ve been a really excellent offering. I’m afraid it’s a two and a half star review for me. Unfortunately, I don’t really give half stars, so it gets bumped up. Also, the book isn’t on Goodreads. That’s just odd.