When I think of Ireland, I think of a land full of history and magic. I think of centuries full of tradition and folk tales. Magic is a book that brings all of these things to life.
Ireland is overrun by wealthy English landowners that want nothing more of their Irish land dwellers than more profit. In order to control this unruly bunch, England has stationed English troops everywhere. The man who controls these troops, Captain Lionel Redmayne, has two goals. He wants to bring the legendary smuggler Silver Hand to justice, and wants to break the will of the Irish people. He figures he can kill two birds with one stone by tearing down all of the old ruins that Ireland holds dear – such an action will not only break the heart of the Irish, but bring Silver Hand in to try to stop him.
Mary Fallon knows that Ireland is in dire straits. She has been given the responsibility, like other generations of women in her family, of being able to bring Ciaran of the Mist, a true Irish hero of legend, back from Tir na nOg, the kingdom of the Fairies. He has been living there for the last 900 years since captured by the Fairy King due to his skill at the game of Hurling, which is an obsession with the Fairy King. In order for the King to gain Ciaran’s cooperation, he promised that once every 300 years, if Ireland needs him, he could go home to help. At least that is what the fairy tale says. When Fallon actually calls into the mist at the ruins of Ciaran’s castle, a man comes out of the mist who is not like the hero she imagined. He doesn’t know who he is, he has no clothing, and he thinks she’s crazy for believing in the old tales.
Ciaran, as he goes by for lack of any other name, turns out to be a pretty noble guy. While he is saving Ireland he and Fallon survive a forced marriage, political intrigue, and a near hanging until they learn whom Ciaran “truly” is and can live happily ever after.
Ciaran and Fallon are strong and proud Irish characters – wonderfully full of tradition and faith. The scenes where they are involved in Irish magic or tradition are absorbing. I loved the fact that neither looses faith with the other at any time in the book. The villain, Redmayne, is cold-hearted, ambitious, arrogant, and efficient, but not evil. I liked that – we get glimpses of what makes him tick, enough to almost be sympathetic toward him. The Prologue is moving, the Epilogue is cheery and a bit humorous, and the descriptions of Ireland bring the place to life.
This book did have a few problems, the biggest being the lack of downtime. The author tries to keep us at a tense peak throughout the whole book instead of having quiet moments mixed in to make the stressful times more so. I did some eye rolling and snorting at many of the sentences created just to maintain the high, especially at the author’s use of questions in the narrator voice, such as this whole paragraph:
“She couldn’t rid herself of the feeling she was being watched. By whom? The Ancient Spirits? The stones themselves? Was the castle waiting for her? Waiting for the summons that had been passed from generation to generation?…”
There were three more question sentences in this paragraph, and the book is riddled throughout with these. They are much like a cliffhanger sentence from an old soap opera – “Would Mary ever meet the man in black? Would she survive the dreaded dinghy fever? Find out next week!” This tool can be effective if used occasionally, but there are pages and pages of these sorts of questions, and I found them to be exhausting.
Kimberly Cates knows her Irish myths and legends. Ireland comes alive in these pages. I hope that she gentles her writing style just a bit – a slight touch of humor and some normal every day moments would have made this book perfect. I’m looking forward to the sequel, which according to the sample chapter in the back of Magic, takes the villain in this book and makes him a hero. Should be interesting.