________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 21 . . . . June 8, 2007

cover

The Warrior’s Daughter.

Holly Bennett.
Victoria, BC; Orca, 2007.
224 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55143-607-4.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Christy Goerzen.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.

excerpt:

On the night before Ulster’s forces rode to war, Conchobor held a feast for his champions. And though I had tried hard to be obedient and uncomplaining on this journey, now that my mother’s burden was lessened it is shameless I was in begging to attend.

“Please, Ma!” I was losing hope but couldn’t give it up. I clutched at her hand, dragging against her brisk stride, and promised earnestly, “I’ll be no trouble. I won’t say a word. And I’ll straight to bed after!”

Shucking me off with an impatient flick, my mother opened her mouth for the last denial I would get without a slap to help it sink in – and shut it again. She looked down at me, eager and jittery as a hound before it is loosed, and dimpled into a smile.

“Why not, then, after all? You’ve been no trouble at all so far, with little enough attention from me. And Lugh knows, there will be no carousing into the wee hours this time.”

I was a little disappointed by that. “Why won’t there be?”

“Conchobor will need men with clear heads in the morning. Besides, there is too much to do.”

Told from the first-person perspective of Luaine (pronounced Loo-in-ya), Holly Bennett’s The Warrior’s Daughter is loosely based on Irish myths. Bennett is no stranger to writing Celtic-influenced literature – her other two novels, The Bonemender and The Bonemender's Oath were masterfully written fantasies that took their inspiration from Celtic places, names and legends. Filled with druids, magic and ravens, the novel is rooted in ancient Irish stories and maintains a wonderful, gentle sense of fantasy so evident in her other two novels, although The Warrior's Daughter is much darker.

     The daughter of formidable and feared warrior Cuchulain, Luaine is the perfect heroine for this gripping tale –  spunky, curious and brave. As Luaine faces war and other hardships throughout the novel, we see her grow up (much too fast) while still maintaining her inner strength. Luaine’s mother, Emer, is another wonderfully powerful female character in a world otherwise populated by male warriors and leaders. Strong, obstinate and unflappable, she is attentive to Luaine’s curiosity and is the only person able to face her husband when he returns from the battlefield, frenzied and full of “red wrath.” She never flinches, not even in the face of gruesome death. (Note to the squeamish: Bennett includes many vivid descriptions of war-ravaged bodies and battlefields throughout the novel.) The conversations between Luaine and her mother are highlights of the novel.

     In addition to her well fleshed-out characters, Bennett is a master at describing the setting. The ancient world of Ireland that she depicts is every bit as craggy and windswept as the reader imagines. As Luaine describes, “I will never forget how it looked when we finally emerged from the hummocky north country and looked down on the long slope of the Muirthemne plain. The autumn sun suddenly sailed free of the clouds to light up the patchwork fields, as if the earth were giving up a harvest of jewels.”

     There is only one caveat to this otherwise favorable review. One obstacle to fully enjoying Bennett’s otherwise rich narrative is her sometimes uneven and clunky use of archaic language. For example, “[a]nd though I had tried hard to be obedient and uncomplaining on this journey, now that my mother’s burden was lessened it is shameless I was in begging to attend” (from the excerpt). Sentences like this one can trip up an otherwise flowing sense of story.

     Although not quite as satisfying as her two Bonemender novels, The Warrior’s Daughter is well-told tale of romance, heartache, war and growing up from an author to watch.

Recommended.

Christy Goerzen is the Communications Coordinator for the North Vancouver District Public Library system in BC. She holds an MA in Children’s Literature from the University of British Columbia, and is a huge fan of all things Celtic.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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