The Fires of Gleannmara Series #2
I found Riona to be an engaging, intelligent, packed-with-celtic-culture kind of book. I was totally enthralled by the words and the placement of them within the sentences and paragraphs as I first began to read this novel. I was hooked by the sheer beauty of the prose right-off-the-bat. For example, here is a paragraph showing what I mean: (it is the first paragraph in chapter 2)
The morning sun emerged from the purple mist hovering over the eastern horizon, its thirsty rays lapping at the dew-kissed hillsides of Gleannmara. From the trees, birds as varied as the colors of green on Erin’s landscape greeted the new day with song. Nearby a brook, sprung from the bosom of its mother mountain, danced over a rock-studded path that wound down to a sibling river and on into Father Sea. The royal hill fort itself commanded the view over pastures dotted with brown, gray, and purple heathers, and bright gorse and fields tilled in infant green rows straight as a warrior’s sword. As if yawning at nature’s wake-up song, Gleannmara’s doublewide gate slowly swung open. Riona, 2001, pg. 13
I found the beauty depicted in this description of the setting continued throughout the book in many different descriptions. The way in which the author describes things is completely in tune with the language and metaphors of the time and place in which this book is set.(…the fields tilled in infant green rows as straight as a warrior’s sword) emphasis mine
I completely agree with the author’s choice to include a glossary of terms as I struggled with several of the Celtic terms throughout the book that would often stop me mid-sentence. It was so heavily saturated with celtic terms and meanings that I felt it detracted, at times, from the over-all enjoyment and comprehension of the book. While at the same time, the unusual words contributed greatly to the general feeling or aura of the setting and the story. The author most definitely shows great knowledge and understanding of early Ireland, celtic words and traditions. For this alone, she has won my respect, never mind the beauty of her writing
The plot was generally fast-paced and interesting. I felt the resolution of the 2 main characters’ love/hate relationship in mid-novel to be premature and abrupt. Perhaps this is where reading of the first book in the series, Maire, may have helped. I believe this premature resolution required a considerable “suspension of disbelief”. WIthout going into details for those who have not yet read this novel, I felt it could have been drawn out more, continuing the romantic tension longer. The series of events seemed to occur too quickly and without real motivation. The same could be said of one of the minor plots as well.
Due to personal reasons, and not the demerits of this novel, I found it took a lengthy period of time to finish. Perhaps if it was read more quickly, the plot would seem to flow more smoothly and the “suspension of disbelief” mentioned above, would not be necessary. Again, perhaps reading Maire may have provided more unity to the plot of Riona. I would certainly be interested in what others who have read both have to say.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone, especially those who have an interest in Celtic traditions or Ireland specifically, and most definitely to those who have a sincere appreciation for the weaving of words within a story. After all, words are what make the story what it is. Bravo, Linda Windsor!