Book Review: “The Radiant Road” by Katherine Catmull

Clare Macleod has just moved back to her childhood home in Ireland, a place she and her father haven’t even visited since her mother died. It’s built into a green hillside by the sea, and there’s a tree growing right inside the house, which has been there for a thousand years. If it sounds magic, that’s because it is – not that Clare realizes it just yet. All her life she’s felt the pull of the Strange, unexplained moments of beauty or oddness that seem otherworldly. It’s only after she moves back to Ireland that Clare learns there’s a reason for why she’s super-sensitive to these moments: the realm of fairy is real, and Clare is the keeper of one of the doorways between our world and theirs. As it turns out, she’s returned to Ireland just in time, because the pathways between the worlds are under threat by an ancient evil.

In less capable hands than Katherine Catmull’s, The Radiant Road could have seemed wishy-washy and cutesy rather than elegant and odd, but trust me, there’s a reason why this book is raking in starred reviews all over the place: it’s perfectly magical. Catmull’s tone hits an interesting juxtaposition of lyrical writing about a contemporary setting, seemingly lulling the reader into the magic along with Clare, and is a great match for fans of Charles DeLint or Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys. It’s fantastical and moving, dripping with imagination and optimism, crafted just for those who dream of fairy roads and magic long into their teenage years (or *cough* adult years). It’s also appropriate for younger readers who are more advanced – I think a 9 or 10 year old could appreciate this story as much as a 13 or 14 year old. It’s gentle, yet compelling. I loved it.

For those who want it, there’s just a hint of a romance for Clare (another thing I love about this book – there’s finally a reason why the teenage boy in it acts so odd: he’s part fairy), but it’s more about friendship, self-discovery, and creativity than anything else. If you’ve ever loved to paint, or sing, or write, and have always felt that there’s at least a little magic left in old forests and ruined castles, then this is the book for you.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.