The Irish Knight
The Irish Knight was a story that vacillated between being a compelling read and an overly dramatic one. There were whole sections that held my attention completely, and then, suddenly, I would lose interest in what was happening. This occurred throughout and made for a most uneven read.
For Sinead DeClare it’s been thirteen years since her chosen one rejected her and took himself off on Crusade. She’s managed to pick up the pieces pretty well and has barely had time to think of Connal PenDragon because her duties as clan chieftain fill most of her time. She’s been greatly concerned about the fate of Ireland, which might go either way, depending on whether Richard the Lionhearted is outsmarted by his younger brother John. She also has to make sure that no one in power finds out that she’s a witch – and a very powerful one, at that.
Connal PenDragon reenters Ireland and Sinead’s life on orders from King Richard. He is to make certain that the clans pledge loyalty to Richard and further stabilize the situation in Ireland by uniting the houses of PenDragon and DeClare. Unfortunately for him, that means marrying Sinead. He’s always been a little unnerved by her, both by her magic, which she has used on occasion to his detriment, and by her blatant emotional attachment to him. He is loyal to Richard, however, and so will do what it takes.
When he proposes the match to Sinead, she refuses outright. She calls him a traitor to Ireland, and insults him for his involvement in the Crusades. She won’t even consider marrying him for political reasons. She wants something more, and she expects him to figure out what “more” means exactly. He doesn’t know if he can do that, but for his king, he has to try.
Sinead is a fun character. She is a powerful witch who doesn’t take a lot of crap from anyone, although she no longer abuses her powers in any way. It would have been preferable if Fetzer had outlined the boundaries of her power and philosophy a little better. She is characterized as a very pagan magician, and the reader never knows what she will pull out of her bag next. Still, almost every time she uses her powers, it’s very entertaining and interesting. Fetzer’s medieval Ireland is an enchanting place full of magic, faeries, and possibility. Sinead is a child of that magic.
Sinead’s history with Connal was intriguing. As a couple, they reminded me a little of Richard and Isabel from Claudia Dain’s The Marriage Bed. Perhaps the rift between them and their bitterness toward each other would have had more of an emotional punch if these scenes had been told in flashback, rather than summary. Much of Connal’s very complicated backstory was also summed up awkwardly in chunks to little effect. Readers of the previous books in this trilogy might better understand his history. I found it to be confusing.
A word to the wise for the gentle reader: this book is quite violent for a romance. Connal is a knight, and he has a brutal history. He also seems to have no qualms about killing or torture. In the course of the story numerous people are beheaded, stabbed, shot with arrows or otherwise eviscerated. Since so much of Connal’s character development was summed up in backstory, it was hard to get a handle on who he was and why he was so comfortable with bloodshed. He came across as brutal and rigid and unapologetic about it. Except, that is, with Sinead, with whom he was unfailingly gentle, if pigheaded.
The Irish Knight was sometimes quite entertaining and touching and at other times, both the action and the emotion bordered on melodrama. Also, toward the end, a few legendary characters make an appearance, and their presence seemed fantastical and unnecessary to the story. The book was no hardship to read, though, and the scenes in which Sinead uses her powers are almost enough to push the book into recommended territory – almost but not quite. However, it’s probably worth a try for those readers who like paranormals and do not mind a fair amount of gore.