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Books for Adults - Fiction

Cover Art: Summon the Queen
Summon the Queen
By Jodi McIsaac
47North, 2017, ISBN e-book 978-1503942252, $4.99
Print ISBN 978-1503942257, $10.99

Brilliance Audio ISBN 978-1536610840, $9.99

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Once a member of the paramilitary Provisional Irish Republican Army, Nora O’Reilly wishes she could go back and change the past. That way her brother might still live, rather than be caught up in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. She gets her wish with the help of Brigid, both an ancient goddess and a Catholic saint, after she dreams of a man calling out for help.

Cursed with eternal life, Fionn mac Cumhaill has wandered through time for centuries. Once a legendary warrior, he is now just a man, who lives with the agony of watching those he loves grow old and die while he remains forever young. The only way to break the curse is to free Ireland from her enemies – a task he’s attempted over and over again without success. Now Nora offers him hope that he might achieve this goal and, in the process, restore her brother to life and reunite with his loved ones who have passed.

But their first attempt during the Irish Civil War failed, and now they find themselves traveling back to 1592 to find the pirate queen Granuaile (Grace O'Malley). But things never go quite according to plan, and they arrive five years too early and a long way from her home in County Mayo. They also “land” amidst the ruins of a church and a band of men, returning from a raid on the English. Nora shoots one rebel in a confrontation, but his partner recognizes Fionn as a friend and they are left alone to continue their arduous journey.

After a brief respite in Fionn’s home – the one in which his 16th century persona, Robert O’Hanlon, lived – they ride to Dublin to find a ship willing to take them to Galway. Gold assuages the sea captain’s qualms about putting to sea with a woman aboard. Just as Fionn and Nora kiss, Spanish pirates attack and he hastily disguises her as a man to protect her. After the pirates leave with their booty, the crew blames Nora for their bad luck. The only way to save herself is to keep the wounded captain from dying as Fionn and the crew try to reach Cork to repair the damaged ship.

Any hope of finding assistance there proves fruitless since the plague has struck the town. It’s a four-day ride to Galway, but Fionn and Nora have little choice. To remain is more dangerous than venturing through a burned-and-slashed countryside populated by desperate, starving people. Once they reach the city, Fionn goes to the docks to learn what he can about where Granuaile might be. But Galway is a dangerous place, and Nora’s innocent questions soon get her arrested. Sir Richard Bingham, the Governor of Connacht, believes her to be in league with Granuaile, his arch enemy, and Nora is imprisoned just as Granuaile is being taken to the gallows. Then Nora is whisked away to an Irish castle whose earl has been raised in the English court, and his methods of finding out the truth are far more subtle and dangerous than Bingham’s. Nora’s only hope is to escape, but how? Once free, how will she ever find Fionn so they can convince the distrusting clans to unite against their common enemy, the English?

Summon the Queen is the second book in Jodi McIsaac’s The Revolution series, and ’tis a grand tale indeed. Nora’s feistiness, determination, and caring heart make her a character readers easily connect with, although she has the annoying habit of often saying “ta” when answering questions. Deftly portrayed as a legendary-hero-turned-ordinary-man, Fionn is equally captivating and his reticence to form attachments that will only cause more heartache is a trait with which most of us can identify. Granuaile steps from the curtains of history to come to life and her exploits are dramatically portrayed, be it when she tells a story about her favorite son or risks everything to meet Queen Elizabeth herself. Whether depicting a starving woman or the banded corpse of a pirate on display as a warning to others, McIsaac vividly recreates sixteenth-century Ireland. Her skill at interweaving history with romance is reminiscent of Irish bards who mesmerized listeners with adventurous stories fraught with danger and intrigue, where each peril is more heart-stopping than the last.

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Book review Copyright ©2017 by Cindy Vallar
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