Tag Archive | Celtic Fantasy

Stephen R. Lawhead’s Eirlandia Trilogy (Review of In the Land of the Everliving + In the Kingdom of All Tomorrows)

Today, I’m sharing a sort of merged-double-review with my thoughts on the last two books in the Eirlandia trilogy, also known as one of my favorite series in a long time.

GIVEAWAY

ALSO! If you’re reading this before 9/15/22 and have a US address, you can enter a GIVEAWAY for book one in this series! Drop by my other blog where I’m celebrating my nine-year blogiversary (as of 9/9/22) with a giveaway of a hardcover copy of In the Region of the Summer Stars!

And now, read on for my thoughts on book two and three!

Title: In the Land of the Everliving + In the Kingdom of All Tomorrows

Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

Series: Eirlandia trilogy, book 2 and 3 (Book 1: In the Region of the Summer Stars; read my review here.)

Fantasy / Celtic Fantasy • Adult (but teens would enjoy too) • published 2019 and 2020 by Tor Books • 316 pages and 286 pages (hardcovers)

Date read: 2021 and 2022 • 5 stars (would give 6 stars if I could!) • Favorite character: Conor mac Ardan • Source: Barnes & Noble

GoodreadsBarnes & NobleAmazonAuthor Website

Note: This is a review for the second and third Eirlandia novels.

This series set in ancient Ireland has been a massive homecoming for me, and when I say these books mean a lot to me, that’s quite an understatement. Mr. Lawhead’s writing, characters, and world together form a magnificent tale across three novels, and I wanted to LIVE in these books. After reading each one, and ever since, they echo in my mind—“We’re your home,” they say. Each of these wondrous Celtic fantasy books has made it onto my top-favorite-books-of-the-year lists for the last few years. I simply adore Conor mac Ardan’s adventures in this green and magical land my heart aches for.

The setting of Eirlandia made me feel SO AT HOME. I want to live there. The green hills, the raths, the noble characters… The Irish language, the names, the words… The writing sings across the page and drew me fully into this land of wonders and that indescribable feeling of being home at last. *hugs it*

And then the people who inhabit Eirlandia and nearby shores! I love their hospitality and how there are good-hearted people—a breath of fresh air in fiction these days. (And the comeuppance of certain devious characters… OH YES.) The De Danann—just loved them. I loved the bards and druids and wise councilors. So much. I loved the faery people and their mysterious feel—perfectly Fae and Elven (in a Tolkien way) and Welsh and I loved how they feel a perfect part of the land.

I adore Conor mac Ardan and his friends so much! I also love how noble and heroic they are, despite their struggles and the war they find themselves entangled in. Conor is a hero I’d follow to the end and I love how much he’s grown from the first book, all the way to…well, no spoilers. 😉 But he’s magnificent! Also, the dialogue and the HUMOR of the banter between certain characters—it makes me so happy! It’s dry and Irish humor and I’m HERE for it. *grin* I have to mention Fergal, Donal, and Aoife specifically, because they’re all fabulous.

This is mostly a general review of the last two books as a whole, but I have a couple of specific things to mention for each of them.

  • BOOK 2: IN THE LAND OF THE EVERLIVING — I loved seeing more of the faery people! They were fabulous. I already touched on that, but had to mention it again. The other most favorite thing in book two…has to be the lightning scene. OH MY WORD. It was the most epic thing. 😀 *beaming* I won’t say more because spoilers, but I just had to comment on it because it was absolutely awesome.
  • BOOK 3: IN THE KINGDOM OF ALL TOMORROWS — Firstly, there are a couple of ABSOLUTELY MAGNIFICENT legal proceedings which . . . sounds boring . . . but Y’ALL. It was so good! So, so good. Especially the second one which absolutely made my day. *grinning so hard* The other thing that especially stood out to me about book three was the ending. The epilogue, the final chapter before that, and the last couple of paragraphs of the chapter before that…they were incredible, and gave me feels (in the case of the final chapter, which I don’t want to say much about for fear of spoilers but it was a timely chapter for me when I read it), and there’s so much intriguing about especially the epilogue that I probably need to re-read to unpack properly, but…anyway, I loved all of it so much. I’m not saying all readers will feel the same way I did, but those last few chapters meant a lot to me. I absolutely adored them.

Overall, these books meant so much to me, and the writing, Irishness, epicness, and characters all combined to absolutely steal my heart and make me feel completely at home. I felt seen. It’s a very “me” series. I connected with it so hard. I will love it forever! I, for one, found it to be incredibly enjoyable and meaningful all at once.

I 100% recommend this series! It’s just really good! Go read it!

(I also highly recommend the audiobooks.)

Don’t forget to drop by my other blog to enter the giveaway for the first book!

Leave a comment and make my day! I love chatting books with y’all!

You may also enjoy my reviews for other Celtic fantasy . . .

My reviews for Lawhead’s Bright Empires series . . .

Looking for more of my book reviews? Check them out here!

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Top 10 Books of 2021 (+ Book Stats)

Long time no see, blogosphere!

I’d like to blog more this summer (possibly with some book reviews coming your way every Friday? *fingers crossed that I get them written*), and since I never actually posted a wrapup of 2021’s reading . . . well, here we are at last!

Hush, I know we’re 7 months into the next year. A wizard is never late.

Before we get into a list of my top favorites, first . . . a few reading stats in the form of my new favorite thing, pie charts!

(Feel free to skip past the stats and get straight to the books!)

(I just love keeping track of stats.)

(Carry on.)

STATS

Shocking no one, I read a lot of fantasy… But the amount of modern fantasy DOES surprise me; I blame City Between and some (lovely) books I copyedited.
I apparently read a lot of things that are not technically novels…but at least slightly over half of them are! There was also a jump in graphic novels, which I hadn’t done much with before this last year.
This is one I was very curious about, because I don’t feel like I read a lot “for fun” — I’m proven wrong!
Massive jump for audiobooks last year!
This is also very interesting to me, just to see how many re-reading I do. (“Multiple times” reads were mostly books I copyedited.)

I am slightly addicted to pie-charts. XD I did these with a Google Form inspired by Kendra E. Ardnek’s book wrapups. But I’ve since learned how to use pie charts in Google Docs and have been tracking all my current reads this year in real time in a spreadsheet. So I should hopefully have some cool stats at the end of the year. ^_^

(Books I read in 2021 which I have in physical form. Top shelf on the left: books I copyedited. Top shelf on the right: re-reads. Middle shelf: general new-to-me novels. Lowest shelf: graphic novels, picture books, anthologies [including Fantastical Moments by Erudessa Gentian, which I copyedited and is small with no readable title on the side], another book with no readable spine, and nonfiction.)

Some numbers

  • 95 total things read (I hesitate to say “books” but anyway. XD)
  • 44 new-to-me novels
  • 15 comics/graphic novels
  • 14 novellas/novelettes/short stories
  • 7 re-reads
  • 4 short story collections
  • 4 non-fiction books
  • 4 picture books
  • 3 poetry or play

And now . . .

Here are the best of the best new-to-me reads I consumed in 2021!

(Gotta say, there are a lot of swords and pointed ears featured here, and I am here for it.)

TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2021

Wrought of Silver and Ravens + Wrought of Serpent and Snow (E. J. Kitchens)

This series is EVERYTHING, I tell you! I adored the first book with its Twelve Dancing Princesses story, its ancient-Greek flavor of a fantasy world, brilliant worldbuilding and magic systems, and most of all the CHARACTERS! These characters, though! I could rattle off the entire cast on a favorites list. Then the sequel was EVEN BETTER, which I didn’t think possible, and was just sheer perfection, IMO. Some of the most delightful books I’ve ever read, and I highly recommend them! The stunning writing, skillful fantasy, whimsical humor/camaraderie/dialogue of the characters, and Galen, Athdar, Breccan, Murray, Floraison, Ayrton, the magical lion cubs . . . I told you I could go on forever but I’ll stop now. 😉 All of it is just sheer excellence and I cannot recommend these books enough!

Blood of the Seer (C. M. Banschbach)

Aaahh, this book! I adored the first book (Oath of the Outcast) and this one takes everything up a notch. It’s full of so many fabulous things like brothers, snark, much stabbiness, Celtic fantasy vibes, a band of outlaws, redemption, and several favorite characters — particularly a certain Mountain Baron, Rhys MacDuffy (don’t let him catch you saying his name, though), who’s a character I’ve dubbed my “Smol Floof of Anger Management Issues” and . . . yeah. *grinning* Rhys and his story are life! I adore him and this book, and I highly recommend this duology! Plus, there were some great twists for some side characters, especially that epilogue — OH MY WORD. I just cannot with this book. It’s SO GOOD. (Read my review here!)

In the Land of the Everliving (Stephen R. Lawhead)

I’m planning to review this second book and also the final book (In the Kingdom of All Tomorrows) of the Eirlandia trilogy soon. This series set in ancient Ireland has been a massive homecoming for me, and when I say they mean a lot to me, that’s quite an understatement. Mr. Lawhead’s writing, characters, and world together form a magnificent story, and I wanted to LIVE in these books. After reading each one, and ever since, they echo in my mind — “We’re your home,” they say. Book 3 will be going on 2022’s top reads, for sure, and book 2 was another fabulous Celtic fantasy from last year’s reads. In the Land of the Everliving was a fabulous center book of Conor mac Ardan’s trilogy in this green and magical land my heart aches for. (Review of book one.)

Sing To Me of Rain (E. B. Dawson)

This book! It’s the most delightfully whimsical tale full of all the best kind of fantastic things, from a certain fox (aahh!) to a tiny mermaid-like naiad to trees with flaming leaves to pangolins . . . It’s both deep and fun and is such a heartfelt book that had a huge impact on me. It’s like George MacDonald meets Studio Ghibli and I could just LIVE in this gorgeous setting of exotic locales with this whimsical cast of characters on a journey figurative and literal. Plus, you will never look at rain the same again. I JUST ADORE IT and it’s the best middle grade fantasy I’ve read in a couple of years, so I was extra ecstatic this last weekend to find out it won the Middle Grade Realm Award! SO deserved and I hope more people will discover this beautiful little book and experience it like I have! *all the heart eyes* (Read my review here!)

Pretense (Tara Grayce)

This one is here because Edmund and Jalissa finally get their own story in this wonderful elven/human series featuring our very own Farrendel and Essie. I adore this series and elf/steampunk world and these characters, and I was blown away by Edmund and Jalissa’s adventure full of twists and spy-shenanigans and court intrigue and secrets and ups and downs. Edmund’s been one of my favorites from the beginning, and it was amazing to get his story at last! And, of course, Farrendel and Essie are still being amazing and adorable, and the other characters are still fabulous. A favorite series, for sure. It just…it is such a comfort-read series for me!

Stolen Midsummer Bride (Tara Grayce)

I know, another Tara Grayce book, but this one was just so whimsical and delightful and it made me so happy! The magical world, the library, the semi-sentient cottage, the Door, Buddy the Talking Equine Companion (he’s a pony, but he’s marvelous), and of course our mild-mannered librarian Basil the fae who meets up with spitfire human Meg. The fae courts and Midsummer Night’s Dream twists just made it more delightful. It may not be for everyone but it was just the whimsical read I needed last spring and the hall of doors has actually helped inspire a new organizational system for my writing. The magical things like the cottage and Door made me think of House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones, too!

Truesilver (DJ Edwardson)

This one I technically read in 2020 (since I copyedited it), but it hadn’t been published yet when I did my 2020 book wrapup, sooo I’m adding it to 2021’s favorite reads since it didn’t get to go in the previous year’s . . . and I simply can’t pass up including this amazing book on a top-favorites list! It’s an excellent tale and I love it so, so much! Ranger’s Apprentice meets the Wingfeather Saga, with a dash of Prydain, in this masterfully woven tale featuring a sentient sword (eep!). The bright threads of a lush, original world and the whimsy, humor, and peril at turns all twine together to tell the story of a cast of colorful characters who stole my heart. ^_^ (Read my full review here!)

Into the Heartless Wood (Joanna Ruth Meyer)

This author’s books always enchant me and this lusciously written novel was no exception! I adored the Welsh-type names and the haunting woods and dash of technology (like trains) and the heartfelt story of family (like all a certain big brother will do for his little sister), but I especially loved the heartrending love story of a tree siren girl and a cinnamon roll of a character named Owen. Owen and Seren! Be still my heart. (Okayyy, I’ll stop with the heart words! But I seriously “heart” this book…) It’s just such a rich, enthralling tale and I breathed each poetic word of this story which is like a bright star in the dark woods. Fans of Echo North or of the Maleficent movie should love this one. 🙂 (Read my review here!)

ALSO. If you haven’t read it, be sure to pick up the paperback edition of Into the Heartless Wood because the paperback (which released this year) has an exclusive short story in the back which is sort of like an extended epilogue, and I just read that this month (yay for birthday giftcards), and aaaahhh it was everything my heart needed! *happy tears*

Moonscript (H. S. J. Williams)

There are two (main) reasons for this book being here and they are: ERRANCE and ELVES! I adore elf books after having grown up on The Silmarillion (I don’t even want to know how many times I read it before I was even a teen and during my teen years too), so this book makes me ALL THE HAPPY. The characters were all AMAZING and I just adored so many of them (Rendar and Coren, anyone?), and all the different locations were sooo cool. Just. Such a rich world. And then there’s Errance and I’m basically him but he’s also really, really cool, so there’s that. XD The epicness and humor and character moments and aching and darkness defeated by redemption and light were just so inspiring! I just really enjoyed it.

I feel like this was an exceptional year for my top-ten reads. ^_^ Just. Look at themmm!

FAVORITES IN NON-NOVEL CATEGORIES

My favorite . . .

(image from latest C. M. Banschbach newsletter; of course I can’t predict if it stays, but!)
  • Short Story: Birth of a Soldier (C. M. Banschbach) — This is available (at the moment, at least) on Claire’s newsletter and is an ABSOLUTELY PERFECT short story about when Rhys/the Baron was young and — MY HEART. T_T
  • Re-read: Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones) — I actually tried the audiobook, and at 2x speed I quite enjoyed it. ^_^
  • Poetry: We Are Storm and Starlight (Sarah Delena White) — I’ll read anything she writes and this was gorgeous!
  • Non-fiction: Trusting God When You’re Struggling (C. E. White) — I just really enjoyed this one. 🙂
  • Graphic Novels: I can’t decide! I really enjoyed the middle grade steampunk duology City of Secrets/City of Illusion by Victoria Ying, and the superhero-dating-a-supervillain (do they know it? No, they don’t. XD) series Flying Sparks by Jon Del Arroz, and the post-apocalyptic duology Eden and The Aftermath by Skillet. They were all really different but really cool. I’m kind of new to graphic novels, so. XD (They’re all clean, as far as I remember, though there’s of course some violence in the superhero and post-apoc ones.)

Leave a comment and make my day! Have you read any of these?

Pangur Ban, the White Cat by Fay Sampson (Book Review)

Happy release day to this delightful Irish fantasy book!

Title: Pangur Ban, the White Cat

Author: Fay Sampson

  • Date read: February 21, 2021
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Fantasy / Christian Allegory / Celtic Fantasy
  • Age: Older children’s to YA
  • Year pub: new edition published 2021
  • Pages: 160 pages (e-book)
  • Series: Pangur Ban Celtic Fantasies, #1
  • Fave character: Pangur and Arthmael
  • Source: The publisher
  • Notes: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.
  • Links: GoodreadsAmazonAuthor’s WebsiteSpring Song Press Website

Mermaids, ancient Ireland, a feisty princess, a hapless young monk, and of course a mischievous cat! What is not to love!

This was a delightful book which was reminiscent of fantasy I grew up reading, such as Narnia, Lloyd Alexander’s books, and George MacDonald. So that made me super happy!

I never knew what was going to happen next and I so enjoyed the adventure! The Irish setting felt like coming home. The perilous mermaids and other creatures (eagle, dolphin, etc.) we met were intriguing. Pangur himself is such a, well, CAT, and I absolutely loved him! Princess Finglass was fierce and a good heroine. And of course Arthmael was so neat — but you’ll have to meet him yourself!

The timeless writing style was refreshing, and as a longtime fan of Celtic myth and legend, I found the essence of that Irish fairy tale feeling on Pangur Ban’s quest in particular to be marvelous.

With mishaps, adventure, a quest or two, and a touching allegory, it’s perfect for anyone who loves Irish fantasy or is looking for a slightly-wilder Narnia-esque story. Young adults and adults will find things to delight them, and children (who can handle a couple of violent/scary bits, so…caution on that) will love it.

This quick read is perfect if you need a brief adventure of mermaids and Ireland in your life! Which, of course, you absolutely do!

(Note: it’s not related to the Secret of Kells film, but since both were I think inspired by the Pangur Ban poem, there are similarities, and I think any fans of the movie would also, separately, enjoy this book.)

A timeless tale, originally published in England in the 1980s, this book is rereleasing with a new cover, and in ebook form for the first time, for a new set of readers to enjoy.

Now available from Spring Song Press!

(Brought to you by the amazing C.J. Brightley, who also runs PhoenixCrate and NobleBright.)


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Thanks for reading! 🙂

Blood of the Seer by C.M. Banschbach (Review)

Happy release day to Blood of the Seer, only my most anticipated release of 2021! *flailing* The first book was my favorite read of 2019, and this one is even better if you can believe it (believe it), so here’s my review! (Also known as me shrieking to the hills and flailing forever and a day, but anyhoo . . .)

Title: Blood of the Seer (The Dragon Keep Chronicles, #2)

Author: C.M. Banschbach

  • Date read: January 23, 2021
  • Rating: 5 stars (all of the stars!)
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Age: NA
  • Year pub: 2021
  • Pages: 324 (e-book)
  • Series: Book 2 in the Dragon Keep Chronicles. Book 1 is Oath of the Outcast—read my review of that one here.
  • Fave character: Rhys/the Baron, a.k.a. my smol floof of anger management issues
  • Source: The publisher
  • Notes: I received an ARC from the publisher. This review is my own independent and fair evaluation.

Links

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleAuthor’s WebsiteSwag Preorder link (through 2/16/21)Signed Paperback

The smol floof of anger management issues that is the Mountain Baron/Rhys is back in this spectacular conclusion to the duology that began with Oath of the Outcast! YOU GUYS. OH MY WORD. This book—THIS BOOK. Just—I don’t even know if I can be coherent enough to review it, especially without spoilers, but let’s give it a shot. I JUST LOVE THIS BOOK AND THIS SERIES SO MUCH.

The stakes and everything have scaled up in this one and everything climbs to another level, as if Oath of the Outcast was the amazing setup and this one drags us deep into a whole new level of epic. DID I MENTION EPIC? (*whispers softly* Epiccccc.) Again, I don’t know how much to say to not spoil things . . . But I’ll just say that you want the Baron and his Cairns on your side if there’s a war going on, or at least not NOT on your side. *grinning*

The scope is broader, we have new characters and already beloved ones, there’s kind of a war on, Rhys is trying not to deal with stuff he really needs to deal with (but being totally awesome in the meantime), and there’s more going on with the Seer/bond/vision world thing which is so fascinating and I shall not spoil. Also, lots of things that only get hinted at in book one are front and center and it’s fabulous. *cackles*

CHARACTERS! Of course, we have our Mountain Baron himself, Rhys MacDuffy (shhhh, he says that’s not his name because banishment, but pffft, details), and he’s still an absolutely growly, terrifying, amazing outlaw with a heart of gold that’s slooowly emerging more than he wants it to and is still prone to go stabby on you if you’re evil or, you know, annoy him. RHYS IS MY FAVORITE FOREVERRR. He’s just the best and following him through all he goes through is just—my feels! He’s my smol floof of anger management issues (yes, I named him that) and I love him so. He totally makes these books. 😀 His arc and story are my favorite.

Then we have Sean, the Seer of the title, and he’s such a cinnamon roll and the brother feels with him and Rhys are realll. I love seeing more of him and finding his fierce side but he’s also just such a goodhearted guy and he and Rhys will do anything to protect each other even if they’re not “supposed” to be brothers and they’re just liiiife. (Brother tropes are the best, hush.)

Alan! Alan is another great almost-bro of Rhys and the loyalty is fierce with this one. His humor and happy-go-lucky, laid-back, chill-seeming self are the perfect recipe to make us laugh (or make Rhys pretend he’s annoyed at him), but he’s also got a bloodwrath warrior side. Alan makes the bestest friend and we all need an Alan, for reals.

Also, new characters! Brother Ennis is a fantastic new addition and I love him so much (this guy! So good-natured, always ready with a soul-seeing remark or a staff to smack with), and there are more of the Cairns who we get to know better and they’re also amazing. (I mean, terrifying. But amazing.) We’ve seen the Cairns a bit in the first one (especially Bryn, Rorie, and Jes, my friendsss!), but they are SUCH an intriguing bunch, and I love how unique they are. *can count off like ten of them by name with info about them but will restrain myself* They’re terrifying outlaws but they follow their Baron anywhere, and it is just the most amazing tight-knit band of bloodthirsty outlaws Celts, essentially. I love them so.

And Ajax, the Baron’s mastiff—aaahh, this dog! He’s basically Rhys’s emotional support loyal hound and it’s great. Everyone needs an Ajax, too. Then there’s DAMON who’s another favorite (oh my word, Damon) and involved with my favorite fantasy trope. *grin, grin* They’re just all amazing! *collapses* Not to mention a certain side antagonist has a veryyyy interesting arc and it’s my favorite. Ahem. (I know I keep saying everything’s my favorite. WELL, IT IS.)

It’s just the greatest cast! AND ALL THE INTERACTIONS AND SNARK (the snark, though) ABSOLUTELY GIVE ME LIFE.

There are some powerful scenes and arcs that give me all the feels and draw me in so hard. Also, I beta-read an early version of this a few years back, and reading the final version was such a rush of coming home as I read these vivid scenes that were already coiled deep in my heart like a beloved dragon and sprang to life. (May I just draw your attention to some clifftop scenes and the castle and standing stones and some Baron-being-dramatic scenes—oh, boy, the TENT, and the forest-court bit—and Damon scenes, and the epilogue scene, and I’m gonna stop now before I list everything.) I just got SO excited to rediscover this book now that it’s published and it was EVEN BETTER and I’m blown away and already want to re-read the duology, even though I just re-read Oath before diving into Seer. (The back-to-back reading experience was amazing, binge-reading them in just over a day.) I know it’s a series I’m going to want to come back to and read again!

It was such a perfect, satisfying conclusion. I adore how it ended. Just. All of it. It. Was. Perfect. IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY. It was everything I wanted and just wrapped up SO WELL and I’m utterly pleased. 10/10 would read about Rhys and this world for a DOZEN books but at least the two we have are absolute perfection, so there’s that. 😀

This one definitely goes down as one of my favorite books and series! Brothers, outlaws, an incredible cast, the Baron (of course!), snark, soul-deep journeys, an awesome fantasy/Celtic feel, and the sheer epic of all of it combined. What is not to love? IT’S. SO. GOOD. I adore, adore, adore this book and I hope it will amaze and delight others as much as it did me. *hugs it forever*

Blood of the Seer is a magnificent conclusion to a stunning Celtic fantasy duology about redemption and brotherhood that you absolutely need in your life!


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Talk to me! Do you like Celtic Fantasy? Are you excited for this one? (Or have you not read Oath of the Outcast, in which case you muuuust!) Thanks for reading! 🙂

Stephen R. Lawhead: In the Region of the Summer Stars (Review)

I have a new favorite book and today I get to shriek about it to you guys to tide me over until I get my hands on the next book in the series! *grins*

Title: In the Region of the Summer Stars

Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

  • Series: Eirlandia, #1
  • Date read: February 29, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars! (Summer ones. ;))
  • Genre: Celtic Fantasy
  • Age: Adult
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 333 (hardcover)
  • Fave character: Conor
  • Source: Library
  • Links: GoodreadsBarnes & NobleAmazonAuthor’s Website
  • Quotes: “I sing because I have no more tears,” the bard replied.

Another deftly woven tale by master storyteller Stephen R. Lawhead, this book is sure to enchant fans new and old alike. It certainly delighted me! It felt like coming home. A new favorite! There are usually a handful of books each year that I want to award six out of five stars, and this is one of them.

Lawhead’s Bright Empires books are some of my favorites ever, so I was extremely excited to finally dive into Eirlandia. And book one has so lived up to my hopes! I love it so much and I can’t wait to read the second one soon to prep for the final book in the trilogy, releasing this summer. (Aaahh!)

I loved disappearing between the pages in this utterly absorbing tale, full of adventure and rich detail and characters who spring to life in this green land of wonders and warriors and words. I lived and breathed it, completely captivated. I love Celtic things, and this is a splendid Celtic Fantasy. I need more books like this!

A few things I loved:

THE SETTING + FEEL

From the first page I just felt so at home reading In the Region of the Summer Stars. The feel of this book touched my Irish soul and makes me think back on memories of the tales of old Ireland that I grew up listening to and reading about. Stepping through the page into Eirlandia made me so happy to just be there.

Welcome to a skillfully woven tale of warriors and druids and faery. Travel the rolling hills and secret forests and cliffs by the sea. Join these various clans and feel the strong themes of brothers-in-arms, honor, loyalty, and fierce bravery, but with dashes of good-natured humor. I didn’t know quite what I expected, but it was everything I wanted. ^_^

The way the characters talk is also great—I love how it has an Irish lilt to it just with the way they say things. It makes me happy. (And their lighthearted Irish sense of humor which is the best.) I also loved the familiar words and names, the rich history and lore they’re drawn from, and even the sounds of them. Brehons, Tuatha de Danann, Lughnasadh, Tylwyth Teg, Tir nan Og. Oenach, Aoife, Eamon, Brigantes. Harps and pipes and bodhran drums, checked cloaks and spears and brooches and torcs. Just all of it. ^_^ The sound and feel of it makes me happy like nothing else does aside from J. R. R. Tolkien’s world of The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings. (And yes, I do have an idea of how to pronounce most of those, I promise. XD)

THE PLAYERS

Then there’s Conor. Conor mac Ardan has this marvelous way of being clever and stubborn and loyal and thick-headed and chaotically reckless all in turn. He’s my favorite! I loved following him through the book on his journey. The way he comes up with the most outlandish plans that are sheer crazy and yet somehow he charges in and pulls them off—mostly. It’s the best! And yet he’s super smart, too, sometimes, and a really skilled warrior (honestly, though. So. Epic.), and you won’t meet a more loyal or honorable friend, either. Occasionally Madoc or Donal and Fergal have to smack some sense into him, but that just makes him all the more human. 😉 Conor is the best, okay! My new favorite hero.

I love the other inhabitants of this tale as well! Conor’s brothers-in-arms Donal and Fergal are fabulous. I love their camaraderie with Conor and each other, and their loyalty and joking around! It’s like the best kind of brother/buddy tale and I love it. Madoc is a marvelous mentor-type character—I loved him and his dryness and wisdom, and how he makes Conor work at figuring things out instead of just telling him things. 😛 Rhiannon is fascinating but I won’t spoil info about her. And so many other people. They’re all so real and I just loved reading about them! Oh, and the bits between some of the chapters, from the points of view of other characters than Conor, were fabulous and enlightening. So neat.

I loved seeing some good and wise druids (yesss) and bards, and the faery were magnificent. I was quite pleased with how they were written and hope to see more of them! They felt just right. Another thing I appreciated was the horses and how central they were to the story, and how the warriors cared for them. They were like characters themselves instead of just transportation that gets forgotten about like in some fantasy books. XD The attention to details like that was delightful.

THE STORY + ENDING

While it’s not non-stop action (though there is a bunch of that!), the story definitely kept me absorbed and on the edge of my seat the entire time, full of devious plots and intrigue and mysteries, which were fascinating to follow along as Conor and company attempted to untangle the threads to see the pattern lurking behind all the guile. Threats and invaders, cunning kings and betrayal, secrets and hidden schemes . . . it was all there!

(Just a heads-up that there were one or two scenes that were a tad dark or gruesome etc., so a brief caution to younger readers or those who prefer to avoid it. Other than a couple of parts, though, I wouldn’t have minded reading it in my teen years in the not-so-distant-past.)

There were some marvelous twists at the end that had me going WHAAAAT! :O That ending, though! It was sooo good. So many things going down. O_O I stayed up late and finished around midnight and WOW. It ended on a wee bit of a cliffhanger, so it did. 😉 I need to get my hands on a copy of In the Land of the Everliving as soon as I can, or sooner!

CONCLUSION

Ancient Ireland + warrior brothers-in-arms + mystery/adventure + faery + druids + delightful characters + masterful writing = what’s not to love? IT’S JUST SO GOOD. I love it so much!

In the Region of the Summer Stars was magnificent and blew me away. I’m thrilled to have stepped into Eirlandia in this tale, and I can’t wait to go back. ❤


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Any Lawhead fans out there? Have you read this one? What do you think? Thanks for reading! 🙂

Oath of the Outcast by C.M. Banschbach (+ Giveaway!)

Guys! It’s heeeere! I’m ridiculously excited to get to share with you my most-anticipated book of the year!

I had the chance to beta-read an early version of this book last year and I’ve been dying for it to be published ever since — and it’s now out (well, book 1 is, since what used to be one novel called The Mountain Baron was cut in half and Oath of the Outcast is the first half of what is now called The Dragon Keep Chronicles) and I just read the final version and ASDFGHJKJLKDJFKLSJ I CAN’T. You need this epic book in your life!

IT’S.

SO.

GOOD.

Read on for my review and a giveaway and the rest of the info and blog tour stops!

But first, here’s a little about the book . . .


Oath of the Outcast

A lost brother.
An unwilling outlaw.
A rising enemy.
An unusual alliance.

Years ago, Rhys MacDuffy was brutally cut off from his clan, stripped of his name and inheritance, and banished to the remote Dragon Keep. Perched high above the Shang Pass in the land of Alsaya, he assumed the mantle of the Mountain Baron, serving out his sentence as the overseer of the worst outlaws and outcasts.

But one day he receives a desperate message from the clan who disowned him: MacDuffy’s Seer—his beloved brother—has been taken by their enemies.

With his band of Mountain Brigands and an unwelcome sidekick, Rhys leaves his mountain stronghold to find and rescue his brother. The tide of war is rising amongst the Clans of Alsaya, fueled by the magic-wielding sect of Druids who seek to unleash a dark force the world has long forgotten.

Can the bond of blood run deeper than banishment?


(On the author’s mantelpiece…)

Links


(The beautiful paperback I bought at Realm Makers; my tiny new dragon — Snufkin Keevan MacDuffy — who I named partially after this book; and the epic prize pack themed for Oath of the Outcast which I won in a raffle at the conference! *shrieking*)

Title: Oath of the Outcast

Author: C.M. Banschbach

  • Date read: July 25, 2019
  • Rating: 5 stars!
  • Genre: Celtic Fantasy (Am I coining this genre name? Yes, yes I am.)
  • Age: NA
  • Year pub: 2019
  • Pages: 338 (paperback)
  • Series: The Dragon Keep Chronicles, #1
  • Fave character: Rhys/the Baron (my smol floof of anger management issues)
  • Source: I received an e-ARC from the author, and also bought a paperback at Realm Makers 2019. All opinions are my own.

I’m sitting here not sure how to form words to adequately express how much I love this absolutely awesome book. I just love it so, so much! OATH OF THE OUTCAST is, hands-down, one of the best books I’ve read all year. I have an addiction to this author’s books, and this the most absolutely brilliant one yet!

I was utterly drawn in from page one, pulled into this delightfully-Celtic-esque world (can I just go live there?) full of so many awesome things. This is a story of clans and brothers, snark and stabbing, pines and mist and mountains and rugged hills and a castle by the booming sea. It’s a story of the bonds of brothers—both by blood and by friendship deeper than blood (so it’s basically my favorite thing: a buddy story, of epic proportions)—and of an outcast banished from his clan, haunted by his past and so totally done with everyone. XD

The characters and their banter and snark and stabbiness are my absolute favorite! Particularly Rhys MacDuffy/the Baron, a.k.a. my smol floof of anger management issues. I just love him so much! He says that Rhys is dead, that he has no family, that he’s just the Mountain Baron now (and has built up something of a reputation where the very name makes people turn pale), but somewhere deep inside he’s still got a little of that old Rhys buried away behind the icy exterior of the Baron. Rhys/the Baron is a deeply scarred man, too betrayed to trust again, who has given up on redemption (but I’m holding out for it!), and yet somewhere he’s got a little bit of a heart of gold left—he just won’t admit it. And he will stab you as soon as snark at you, but if you’re one of his men or his brother (who he says he doesn’t have) he’ll do anything for you. Rhys/the Baron is just one of my favorite characters of all time and so well written and just gaaah. He gives me all the feels! I kind of relate to him and love this gruff epic character so much! HE’S THE BEST. He totally makes this book!

The rest of the characters are so fabulous as well, and I found myself deeply invested in all of these totally-real people—including one of the villains who totally surprised me by making me start to get invested in him. (Not the other villains. They are still the creepiest of ever! O_O You’ll know what I mean when you finish the book. XD) They’re just all so real and enigmatic and just can I please grow up to write like this someday?

The Baron’s band of outlaws are the Cairns and they are so scary but I also love them to death. I love their loyalty to the Baron and also how they freak everyone out. XD None of Robin Hood’s “merry” men here; they’re deadly but also have hidden slivers of gold in their hearts (totally stealing that from an interview about the book because it’s SO TRUE). Bryn and Rorie and Jes and Fulke are so amazing! They’ll do anything for their Baron and it’s the absolute best.

(Oath of the Outcast at Realm Makers 2019, complete with Reese’s. Because Rhys. XD)

And then we have Alan, who used to be best friends with Rhys and is trying to get that back a little and the Baron is so done with him (but also secretly not) and just I CAN’T. THEY’RE THE BEST. I love how Alan is so fun and full of energy and then you’ll almost forget he can totally be as deadly as the other characters. And Sean, Rhys’s younger brother, who is a cinnamon roll and a Seer and Rhys will literally do anything for him, and Sean will too but Rhys won’t let him. XD And there’s a huge-spoiler character but his name starts with a D and he’s involved with one of my most-favorite tropes and alksdjflksjd I LOVE HIM. I need more with this character and I can’t wait for the next book!

It’s a spectacular story and so epic! I love it so much. It feels like a movie. A really epic, sweeping, thrilling, AMAZING movie. With just a bit of an almost-cliffhanger. XD I need the second book to be out NOW! *flails around*

This is one of only a handful of books I’ve been anxiously awaiting this year, and I’m SO thrilled it’s finally out! I was an early reader and was blown away when I read the original version, so when I say that it has only gotten better, I want you to realize how much I mean that. And I also can’t decide if this means I need the second book more because I actually know what happens . . . XD

(Realm Makers roadtrip w/ the author)

I also keep staring at it because I love the cover and I’m so happy to be holding this gorgeous book in my hands, so there’s that. *hugs it forever* (It’s so prettyyyyy. My preciousssss.)

It’s a bit dark and raw and real, so if, in the immortal words of The Princess Bride, you’re bothered by “fighting, torture, revenge” (but no true love—like, there’s no romance in this and it’s basically an awesome buddy story x10000. XD), and creepy druids with evil magic, and invented-swearing, etc., just be aware that it’s a darker story. But it’s so, so good!

I honestly have a bit of a book-hangover after reading this and I don’t know how anything I read is going to feel this awesome (until the sequel comes out next year). Ack!

I simply can’t do this book justice in a review. I could talk about it all day long! You just need to go read it, right now.

OATH OF THE OUTCAST is truly fantastic and you need it and Rhys/the Baron/smol floof of anger management issues in your life! YOU JUST DO.

(Also. Y’all. From what I know of the second book, Blood of the Seer, it’s going to be EVEN MORE amazing than this one, if that’s even possible. So. Yeah. I can’t wait for the conclusion!!)


Giveaway!

We’re giving away books! Open internationally!

  • 2 ebooks,
  • 1 paperback,
  • 1 combo pack of a bookmark and a map postcard!

Enter to win HERE!


Author Info

C.M. Banschbach is a native Texan and would make an excellent Hobbit if she weren’t so tall. She’s a pizza addict, a multi-faceted fangirl, and a firm believer in being authentic—even if it means acting like a dork sometimes! When not writing fantasy stories packed full of adventure and snark, she works as a pediatric physical therapist where she happily embraces the fact that she never actually has to grow up.

She also writes YA/MG fantasy-adventure as Claire M. Banschbach.


Tour Schedule

July 22

July 23 – Release Day!

July 24

July 25

July 26

July 27


Does or does it not sound ABSOLUTELY EPIC?? You need this book in your life! 😀 And make sure you enter the giveaway. ^_^ Let me know what you think in a comment!

Thanks for reading! 🙂