I saw this in Lydia Schoch’s weekly list of free books a while back, and I just had to give it a try. Look at that cover! How cool is that?
Well, as great as it is, the book is even better. It begins by telling the story of Lord Oisin, who fought to avenge the raiding of his town by a bandit known as Cumhil.
Fast forward a few centuries, to the 1780s, when a disillusioned British soldier returning from the war in America finds himself billeted in Cahir Mullach, the castle of Lord Oisin. And on All Hallows’ Eve, no less!
You all probably know that I love Halloween, but you may not know that I also love the American Revolutionary period and everything associated with it. The way Callahan portrays the British infantrymen here really grabbed me: Corporal Michael Snodgrass is a brave man, who witnessed many terrible things in a futile war against the rebelling colonists. Rather than the common American conception of British soldiers as sneering, inhuman, “imperial stormtroopers with muskets,” Snodgrass is depicted as a real person, with an essentially good heart turned bitter by the war, and suffering from what we in modern times would call PTSD.
The other characters are great too: from the kindly priest of the town of Baile, to the greedy, conniving landlord plotting to evict the town’s populace, to the mysterious old woman who, despite the Catholicism of the era, has not forgotten the pagan knowledge of older times.
How it all ties together, I won’t say, but it’s in the great old tradition of stories about spirits meting out justice for old wrongs. It’s true, after a certain point I knew where it was going, but that’s not a bad thing, because I enjoyed every minute of the ride. What I liked best was how the characters grew over the course of the story.
And the atmosphere! Did I mention it’s Halloween? In Ireland? It simply doesn’t get much more Halloween-y than a thick fog late at night, on some lonely trail, ghostly voices whispering in the dark, and then, suddenly, a castle, looming out of the mists!
I thought about waiting to review this book until October, but I couldn’t. It’s too good; I had to tell you all about it immediately. Buy it now, and save it for a chilly Autumn evening, and then let yourself be drawn into Callahan’s marvelous tale of the horrors of war, of ghostly vengeance, of Pagan mysteries and Christian charity, and most of all, of redemption and healing.