Many years ago, Conor, king of the Uliad, received a prophecy concerning a baby girl, Deirdre. The druids proclaimed that she would cause strife amongst his Red Branch warriors and bring ruin to his kingdom. Ignoring their warnings, Conor fostered the baby with two peasants deep in the forest and sent a female druid, Levarcham, to instruct her and groom her to become his wife when she reached an appropriate age for marriage.
Nearly twenty years have passed and Deirdre has grown into a stunningly beautiful young woman who is talented in the arts of the druids. Conor has been a frequent visitor and is eager to take her into his bed. Levarcham has put him off for as long as she dares, she knows that Conor obsessiveness will quickly break Deirdre's spirit.
By chance, Deirdre comes across three of the Red Branch warriors when they are hunting in the forest. The three are brothers: Naisi, Ainnle and Ardan. As she eavesdrops on their fireside banter, she realizes the kind of life that she is about to be committed to and is struck by the strong urge to rebel against it. She has no desire to become Conor's wife, he is a bitter, hard old man and the thought of being with him makes Deirdre ill. So she convinces the brothers to rescue her, to escort her to a neighboring kingdom where she can take refuge.
Helping her goes against every tenant of the Red Branch warrior code, but the brothers still agree to do it. They have become increasingly unhappy with Conor's abilities as King. Naisi, in particular, feels this way and Deirdre offers him an opportunity to highlight the growing dissatisfaction toward the King.
Little do any of them know that their plan will take them far from home, sundering them from all they hold dear. Except each other, though those relationships are also strained by their long journey. Naisi and Deirdre form such a strong romantic bond that it becomes the stuff from which legends are made. But it also means that they can never return to Emain Macha unless they face the wrath of Conor, who will have the power of a kingdom behind his vengeance.
More and more, I find this particular genre to be a favorite of mine. Historical fiction with just a touch of fantasy thrown it, set in a time when magic was believed in, it was still part of daily life. I love to see the author's interpretation of how a myth or folktale might have at its heart an actual occurrence, as if you could wipe away the embroidering that comes from years of retelling and see the spark of what started it all. Jules Watson does just this and does it so well that I could hardly put the book down. It is an excellent story, brilliantly told and I can't recommend it highly enough.
Visit the author's website for more information about her and her books. She is also the author of the wonderful Dalriada Trilogy, set in Ancient Scotland: The White Mare, The Dawn Stag, and The Boar Stone (titled The Song of the North in the U.S.). Her next book, The Raven Queen, will be published in 2010 by Bantam.
The Swan Maiden is published by Bantam. ISBN 978-0-553-38464-2
Now for the giveaway. To enter, just leave a comment that includes your email address, telling me why you would like to read this book. An additional entry will be given to anyone who becomes a follower (any current followers who enter will automatically get this), tweets the giveaway on twitter or blogs about it. If you do tweet or blog, please leave me a separate comment with the link. You can enter until midnight eastern time on July 16, you must have a US mailing address to win (sorry!). Winner will be drawn at random. Good luck everyone. Thanks so much to Jules and Bantam for providing my review copy and the book for this giveaway!
**Edited to add that I just got an email from the author, she will be sending me a signed bookplate for the winner of this giveaway! YAY! Thank you, Jules!
Thank you to Beth at Beth Fish Reads and to The Blogger Guide for helping me to customize my template and to Andrea at The Little Bookworm for improving my header!!
- The Tome Traveller
- New Hampshire, United States
- Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.