With its gorgeous knotwork cover art and the back-cover blurb about “brave, copper-haired Aoife,” the publishers evidently mean to recommend Caiseal Mor‘s The Meeting of the Waters to readers who’ve read and loved Marillier’s Sevenwaters series, the popular trilogy of Celtic epics featuring strong female protagonists. That’s why I bought this book myself. I expected a similar kind of story, complete with adventure, love, war, and magic. The setting is the time of the Gaelic conquest of Ireland, among the Danaan and Fir Bolg tribes who resist the invasion.
Unfortunately, for about the first 500 pages of this book, the love and war and magic are there, but seen from a distance. It’s as if Daughter of the Forest had been told from the POV of the cook Janis, or something. We never get to know any of the lead characters very well, and most of them are unsympathetic. Aoife is a spoiled brat, and a minor character to boot. Her father, King Brocan of the Fir Bolg, is insufferably stubborn; Queen Riona lives only to humiliate her husband. Of their two sons, one is dull and the other foolish and gullible. On top of everything else, most of the exciting events take place “offstage” during these first 500 pages. Mostly, we see the characters arguing about the events in the mead-hall. So, for 500 pages, a bunch of jerks sit around and bicker, and refuse to actually get anything done, for fear of accidentally benefiting their old rivals, the Danaan. At one point, the “wise” Druid judge assigned to deal with the situation comes up with a solution that could make the Danaan and Fir Bolg work together. I, the reader, had thought of it some 100 pages earlier. And I’m no all-wise Druid. I spent most of the book yelling at the characters to grow up.
It gets a little better in the last hundred or so pages. The characters spend a truly creepy night in a Fomorian wood, and after that there is a battle. However, the result is sort of anticlimactic; if feels like we could have gotten there several hundred pages ago.
And by the way, how does the Quicken tree work? At the beginning, it was said that its berries would provide immortality only if the user consumed them once a year for the rest of his/her life. By the end of the book, Mor seems to have forgotten that, and the berries confer instant immortality on anyone who takes them. It changes the meaning of the ending quite a lot.
Caiseal Mor‘s style just isn’t for me.
The Watchers — (2000-2003) Publisher: Brave, copper-haired Aoife was the daughter of a king, a bold young woman full of life and mischief. But on one winter’s night she and her brothers took part in an act of careless mischief with consequences they could never have imagined — and a deadly blood price must be paid. In the forests to the west, a deadly force is stirring. Off the shores of Innisfail, a new enemy is fast approaching. The druid Dalan has been sent to unite two squabbling kings in the face of this overwhelming force, but chaos and confusion confront him at every turn. As dangerous bargains are made and broken, and truces struck and disregarded, Dalan begins to suspect that an even greater enemy is moving against Innisfail. The last of the Watchers are growing bored. But mortals are an interesting game.