Only the Stones Survive

only-stones-survive-morgan-llywelyn

Morgan Llywelyn reminds readers why she is the mistress of Irish historical fiction with this newest addition to her extensive body of work, which weaves Irish myth with historical and archaeological evidence into a complex and fascinating tale of mythic prehistoric Ireland. Told largely from the perspective of Joss, a young man of the Túatha Dé Danann struggling to figure out his place in the changing world, the novel covers the conquest of the Túatha Dé Danann and the settlement of the Gaels in Ireland. It is rich with Irish mythology, as is any novel worth its salt that’s written by this author.

The character development is detailed and satisfying throughout. Readers see Joss grow from a child to a leader and deal with joy and tremendous loss. Eremon and Amergin are similarly complex and conflicted figures. Secondary characters such as Shinnan, the Dagda, and Sakkar are nearly as well-fleshed as primary characters and add depth because they make readers genuinely care about them. A third category of characters that is particularly intriguing are the inanimate ones, such as Ierne (Ireland) and the harp, Clarsah. Giving names and traits to inanimate objects gives them power, and the same holds true here as well. The land and the harp both hold subtle but prominent places within the narrative, and the novel would not have quite the same lovely otherworldly tone without their voices. One line is particularly beautiful: “The harp, if it was a harp, added other themes. The music, if it was music, gave voice to sunshine. And moonlight. A woman’s exultant cry as she bore a child. The clashing antlers of rutting stags. Hope and fear and courage… That is more than music; it represents an entire world.”

This beautiful novel is highly recommended for lovers of Irish mythology, magical realism, and those who hold out hope that they may themselves be descendants of the ancient noble blood.

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