I am nothing if not a predictable Fab. And a book rooted in both Irish mythology and Irish medieval history? That is so my thing it’s not even funny. It also doesn’t hurt that it is absolutely stunning – a Micaela Alcaino cover inspired by Insular manuscript illustration with plenty of gold foil, perfect to inspire dreaming about the world the book is set in. And the book doesn’t disappoint.
Many thanks to Paige at Head of Zeus for inviting me on the Blog Tour and sending me a review copy. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 01/09/2022
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: 981 AD. The Viking King of Dublin is dead. His young widow, Gormflaith, has ambitions for her son – and herself – but Ireland is a dangerous place and kings tend not to stay kings for long. Gormflaith also has a secret. She is one of the Fomorians, an immortal race who can do fire-magic. She has kept her powers hidden at all costs, for there are other immortals in this world – like the Tuatha De Danann, a race of warriors who are sworn to kill Fomorians.
Fodla is one of the Tuatha De Danann with the gift of healing. Her kind dwell hidden in a fortress, forbidden to live amongst the mortals. Fodla agrees to help her kin by going to spy on Brian Boru, a powerful man who aims to be High King of Ireland. She finds a land on the brink of war – a war she is desperate to stop. However, preventing the loss of mortal lives is not easy with Ireland in turmoil and the Fomorians now on the rise… (from Head of Zeus)
OPINIONS: Set in the late tenth century in Ireland between humans and the Tuatha de Dannan, this is straddles both historical fiction and epic fantasy, and blends the two masterfully. In my past life, I spent a lot of time studying Irish history (through the lens of Gerald of Wales), though a couple of centuries later, and so it was wonderful to return to the world of medieval Ireland, to the court of the illustrious Brian Boru, while still being immersed in an utterly fantastical narrative.
In her debut, Shauna Lawless manages to balance politics, mythology and brilliant characters masterfully with a well-paced plot. The tension remains high throughout, even though it isn’t an extremely fast or plot-driven book, which is something that always makes a novel stand out to me. I found the characters well-developed and given ample space to grow and expand with the story, rather than staying static. The world of tenth century Ireland comes to life – and I appreciated the short reading list of solid recommendations the author gave at the end of the book! This really is historical fantasy the way it should be written. Steeped in mythology, but also in the atmosphere of the period, more concerned with a general feeling rather than getting every detail or event right (and I am saying that as a trained historian).
I especially liked how outspoken and determined Fodla’s character was, though each of the many characters we meet (there is a Dramatis Personae) is distinct and has their own personality – which helps in the scope of a book as epic as The Children of Gods and Fighting Men. As a whole, I really enjoyed reading this, and I am already looking forward to the next book when it comes out!