4 out of 4 stars
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A pack of wolves, led by Faolchu, lives peacefully in the magnificent Wicklow Mountains of Ireland. In 1649, Lord Oliver Cromwell, a strict Protestant who hunts Catholics, invades Ireland. He orders his army to pursue and execute rebels, seize farms and lands, evict and kill peasants, and raze the forests. Lord Cromwell is also a hateful man who dislikes wolves, so he puts a bounty on them. On Hallows’ Eve of 1650, Rufus, Lord Cromwell’s favorite wolfhound, kills Faolchu. Mactire, Faolchu’s son, becomes the new pack leader. With the help of Ogham, a druid who is immortal and protects the realm between Earth and the eternal, and his dragon named Acorn, the pack of wolves flees to find a new home. Spoteen, a small but daring terrier, tags along with them. But Lord Cromwell and his army are not the only obstacles in the wolves’ journey, as Eeval, a sadistic banshee who thrives on destruction, famine, and plague, is roaming the lands. What will happen to the pack of wolves? Can Ogham guide them to safety?
Ogham’s Realm: The Celtic Wolves by Rosemarie Shields is a historical fiction and fantasy debut novel consisting of 200 pages. Shields’ writing is wonderful. Her style reminded me of the French historian Fernand Braudel, who came up with the idea of telling history while considering geography, nature, and cultural groups. Shields does that in this book by having wolves escaping an advancing army as the main characters and peasants suffering at the hands of the troops as the secondary characters. It allows her to show how Lord Cromwell and his forces devastated the Irish lands and committed inhuman acts against the Irish peasants during the invasion.
Shields also infuses this historical fiction story with a considerable dose of Irish folklore that gives the book its fantastical quality. The reader enjoys learning about druids, banshees, leprechauns, curses, clauricauns, and Celtic traditions, which are all central elements of Irish folktales. One of the scenes that impressed me the most was when the clauricauns attacked a soldier in an eerie, horrifying manner that I was not expecting at all.
A significant aspect of this book is the themes it covers. Shields captures how Lord Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland had destructive consequences on the environment and the population. For example, Lord Cromwell ordered the bounty on the wolves because they started to pray on the farm animals after the armies leveled the forests to the ground. The conquerors used the wood to build forts for the soldiers and houses for the new landlords. The lack of food and shelter caused famine and plague among the displaced population. To sum up, the reader grasps the damaging effects of war on the natural habitat of a country.
Ogham’s Realm: The Celtic Wolves deserves a 4 out of 4 stars rating. Shields’ writing is excellent. The story is full of fantastic Irish folklore. The themes of the book are timeless, yet not much talked about in history. Plus, the editing is outstanding. I cannot think of something I did not like about it. I would recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, fantasy, and Irish folktales. Historians who adhere to the Annales school of thought would consider this a great historical fiction read too.
Ogham`s Realm:The Celtic Wolves
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