Book Review: “Fire Arrow” by Edith Pattou

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After the events of Hero’s Song, hero’s daughter and expert archer Brie, a.k.a. Breo-Saight, settles down for a little while with her friend Collun, as he takes possession of the stronghold of his hero father and begins to set its gardens in order. While Collun exerts on Brie a peaceable influence, she feels increasingly drawn back into her quest for revenge on the men who murdered her father in front of her. And so she parts from Collun and sets out alone. Returning to her own father’s stronghold, now held by her uncle and aunt, Brie soon picks up the trail of an evil character connected somehow with her father’s killers. Meanwhile, she also picks up a powerful magical talisman—the fire arrow for which she is named—which seems to lead her ever deeper into adventure.

Brie follows vague rumors and intuitions about her own ancestry to the small, isolated, northwestern kingdom of Dungal, where she soon makes new friends, learns a new language, and enters into a new way of life. But even amid the joys of living in an almost magically peaceful fishing village, a shadow of evil falls across Brie’s path. Goat-men, sea monsters, and deadly figures from her past lurk just beyond the edge of her awareness, quick to attack her when her guard is down, or to harm those she has come to care about. A betrayer from within her own family threatens to conquer the gentle land of Dungal in the name of the evil sorceress who rules neighboring Scath. And the visions and powers that the fire-arrow bring may lead Brie either to save the land or to destroy herself.

This second book of “The Songs of Eirren” depicts a powerful female warrior from a remote age of Irish legend. It shows her in the tenderness of young love, in the warmth of friendship, in the confusion of conflicting desires, in the terror and wonder of battle against superior numbers and magical foes, in the doubt of an honest conscience, and in the courage of a noble heart. It is a story whose themes are drawn from many springs of folklore, while its characters breathe their own distinctive, memorable life—from a mad old sea-sorcerer who babbles nonsense songs while weaving spells of power, to a comically cowardly Ellyl (elf). It features a quaint wedding that will conjure fond echoes in the hearts of those who have read Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea chronicles (particularly The Farthest Shore). And it leaves behind a tantalizing hope that its author will yet return to the retelling of Irish lore, though she has not added to this series since 1997.

Recommended Age: 12+