Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Greener Shore - Morgan Llywelyn

2007; 301 pages.  New Author? : No.  Sequel to "Druids", reviewed here.  Genre  :  Historical Fantasy.  Overall Rating : 9½*/10.

    Thoroughly defeated by Julius Caesar's Roman legions, the druid Ainvar flees Gaul with the pitful remnant of his tribe - about 20 people total.  Albion (England) is out of the question; Caesar has conquered it as well.  But Hibernia (Ireland) is ideal - there are Celts and Druids there.  And no Romans.

    But these are not the same Celts as were in Gaul.  Nor the same Druids.  Will Ainvar and his band survive?  Will they fit in?  Should they retain their lore?  Their customs?  And will the Romans come one day to subjugate Hibernia?

What's To Like...
    First and foremost, The Greener Shore is historical fiction.  There really were Celts in Ireland in Roman times.  And since we know almost nothing about Druids (and what little we do know comes from the Romans, who hated them), Morgan Llywelyn is given free rein to weave a marvelous-yet-believable Gaelic world in Hibernia.

    But TGS is also a personal saga.  The Roman victory in Gaul has left Ainvar bitter, full of hatred towards Caesar, and with no faith in Druidism anymore.  Not surprisingly, he finds he has lost his powers as a result.

    Finally, there is a fantasy elment to TGS.  There is the mystical relationship between the Druids and Mother Earth.  And there are also the "little people", who were living in Ireland before the Celts arrived.  The Celts call them the Tuatha de Danann, and they are forgotten now.  But are they really gone?

Kewlest New Word...
Murmuration : The "group" term for starlings.  Like a gaggle of geese, a pod of whales, a school of fish, a sneak of weasels, etc.

    "What else does the chief druid do?"
    Fiachu gave me a blank look.  "What else is there?"
    "Well, what are the functions of your other druids?"
    "They interpret omens."
    "Is that all?"
    What else is there?" he repeated.
    What else indeed.
    My thoughts ran back to Gaul.  Druids whispering to seeds in the frozen earth so they would burst forth in the springing time.  Druids lighting the fires that called back the sun from the kingdoms of ice.  Druids recalling the past and foreseeing the future  Druids supervising birth and burial.  Druids keeping the dead and the living in harmony with each other, with the Earth, with the Otherworld.  The whole complex structure of druidry that had been so elaborately interwoven to cherish the creation of the Source.
    Gone.  (pg. 71)

    "You seem genuinely fond of Labraid," I remarked to the Roman.  "I'm glad for his sake, yet puzzled, too.  He's not a very likable man."
    Probus chuckled.  "I was born old and Labraid will never grow up.  The symmetry appeals to me."  (pg. 287)

"Druidry is inclusion, not exclusion.  To be druid means to be part of, not apart from."  (pg. 118)
    If you don't care about history in general and druids in particular, you might find The Greener Shore a bit slow.  Unlike the first book, Druids, there isn't any fighting to be found here.  Also, this isn't a stand-alone novel.

    But for me, this book was a thorough delight.  Morgan Llywelyn is a superb writer; the storyline and ending are skillfully crafted; and the subject material is something that interests me greatly.  The author has written a slew of other novels about historical Ireland, and I look forward to reading more of them.  9½ Stars.

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