I wanted to like The Witches of Eileanan. I’m always looking for something to read and this is a pretty long series. Unfortunately, although I tried valiantly, I couldn’t even finish it. Usually, for books that I can’t make it through, I give a DNF (did not finish) rating. However, there were a couple of things here that were at least refreshing, which is why the one star.
For starters there was the accent. Now, generally stories with a Celtic bent in general drive me bonkers. They never come with a pronunciation guide. And granted this did drive me bonkers at first. The accent is bound to turn some people off majorly. Even I was turned off at first. However, Forsyth, unlike many authors who attempt accents, is consistent. So much so, in fact, that I eventually fell into the flow of reading the characters’ accents and no longer have a problem with it. There is not, as far as I saw, a single place where she slipped. Whether that’s a credit to her efforts or her editor’s (my guess would be both) it’s an encouraging thing to see in a fantasy writer.
I also liked that the heroine was arrogant and a little dumb, often blundering stupidly into some obvious danger. She had no experience in the world outside the small mountain home she grew up in, and it showed. I am so unbearably sick and tired of sweet, innocent, humble girls who are always flawlessly wise about the dangers of the world even though they’ve never actually been out in it.
Unfortunately those are the only truly good things I can point out. I didn’t much care for Kate Forsyth’s writing style over all. I like a story that changes to different character POVs, it’s true. However, in this book you get a chunk of this character, an even larger chunk of this one, a chapter of that one, another chunk of this one… and so on. Here are these events happening in tandem but they don’t read like it.
Too much of the story is “told” and not in the way most people generally think of the word in relation to books. So much time is spent with the characters talking about the past, the present, and everything in between. You learn everything from the characters’ mouths, rather than their minds, and so despite what they say, it’s hard to pick up how these things effect the characters emotionally.
What made me stop reading though, you ask? A little scene that felt, to me, sexually and violently gratuitous. Now, I’m not one of those people who is squeamish over violence or sex in a book. Granted, it’s true that the vast majority of really good books I’ve read have contained little to no sex. Still, that won’t make me like a book less unless something bothers me about the way it’s done. Here, it’s the way it’s done. It’s a torture scene, but that’s not quite why, either. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why it bothered me. After pages upon pages of not so much as a mention of kissing, this sudden act seemed thrown in just for the sake of doing so. The scene itself feels rather rushed and the heroine’s reaction to this molestation was hard to believe. That a girl who has never been out in the world and has never (from what we’ve been told) really even thought about that sort of thing would not even panic was… well, it was hard to swallow. Also, she didn’t give much impression of being in pain or overly humiliated by this violent sexual torture. It just felt too off for me.
So there you have it. Not a book I enjoyed although I was able to find something good (not always the case).
The Witches of Eileanan — (1998-2002) The first book was also released as Dragonclaw. Publisher: Isabeau the Foundling, discovered as a babe in the roots of a tree, is raised by an old wood witch in the shadow of Dragonclaw, mountain of the dragons. From Meghan of the Beasts, Isabeau learns herb-lore and the languages of animals, but dreams of the old days, when witches were the greatest power in the land. Before she was born, an evil sorceress cast a spell on the Rìgh, winning his love and turning him against the Coven. The great Witch Towers are now all abandoned ruins, magical creatures are hunted down and the Coven’s ancient wisdom is lost. Only the Cripple, enigmatic leader of the rebels, fights to undermine the Banrìgh’s power as her dark plans slowly come to fruition. Little does Isabeau know that she is to play a key role in the battle against the Ensorcellor, for she has a strange and mysterious destiny. As Isabeau is initiated into the Coven on her sixteenth birthday, soldiers sent to hunt down dragons stumble across the clandestine ceremony, and her peaceful life is torn apart by blood and fire. Alone she must set out on a perilous quest that will bring her face to face with her own destiny. For Meghan must go and confront the dragons and, afraid she will never return, entrusts the sacred Key of the Coven to Isabeau, who must carry it to safety. Without the Key, the witches can never release the Lodestar, an sphere of great power that was locked away on the Day of Betrayal. Meanwhile, the sea-dwelling Fairgean stir, children vanish in the night, and the dragons — the most ancient and dangerous wisdom in the land — rise against the Ensorcellor.