Book Review: “The Hunter’s Moon” by O. R. Melling

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Findabhair (pronounced Finn-uh-veer) is a teenager who believes in fairies. She’s Irish, so I guess that’s all right. But her American cousin Gwen believes in fairies too, and thereby hangs a lot of trouble. When the two girls get together for a summer holiday, they set out on a tour of the ancient sites of Irish folklore, especially those kissed by a memory of magic—starting with Tara, for two thousand years the spiritual heart of Ireland and (according to the author’s note at the end of the book) soon to become a motorway. Even as modern Ireland sweeps away every trace of “old Ireland,” however, the girls discover at least one place where the magic is still alive. And that’s where the trouble begins. During a daring night camped out in an ancient monument, Findabhair is abducted by fairies and poor, plump, out-of-her-element Gwen must assume the role of heroine, setting out to rescue her.

Gwen’s journey takes her from one end of Ireland to the other, and brings her together with a series of new-found friends who also buck modern trends and Believe in Faerie. She also runs into many dangers and fends off a variety of faerie tricks. She partakes of a magical fellowship, and tastes the magic of love. But at the end of her journey, she learns that she must lead a war party into the darkest place in all the worlds and fight a perhaps hopeless battle, only to save her cousin from being sacrificed to the embodiment of darkness, evil, and death. As the story climaxes, the reader will share Gwen’s exultation, horror, thrill of battle, and agony of loss—as well as a wistfully hopeful ending that may leave you sniffling and saying to yourself, “Isn’t that just Ireland all over!”

Being a lover of fantasy, I can’t long avoid novels that imbibe Irish folklore. The problem is that I know just enough of the Irish language to be painfully aware that my best guess as to how each word should sound in my mind’s ear is as far from the actual pronunciation as the White Gates of Morning from the Black Gates of Night. It’s terribly vexing. So I owe O. R. Melling (pen name of Canadian-Irish author G. V. Whelan) a deep bow of thanks for kindly supplying a glossary with pronunciation aids for us hopeless anglophones. Her Chronicles of Faerie series continues with the titles The Summer King, The Light-Bearer’s Daughter, and The Book of Dreams. Plus, her stand-alone novels, mostly for young-adult readers, include The Singing Stone, The Druid’s Tune, My Blue Country, and Falling Out of Time.