Tuesday, March 8, 2011

REVIEW: The Raven Queen by Jules Watson

To her father, Maeve of Connacht serves one purpose-to be sold into marriage where he sees fit to make strong political alliances. Now Eochaid is ill and Maeve flees from her latest brute of a husband, Conor of the Ulaid, and returns home to find the future of Connacht up in the air. Soon her brother Innel sees she means to challenge him for the throne of Connacht. After defeating her brother, the warriors soon realize that Maeve is touched by the Gods and draws her strength from the Sidhe, Otherworld beings who serve the Source, the life force of all living things. Maeve develops this mysterious power through Ruan, a wandering druid whom she forms an unbreakable bond to. As Conor makes it known that he wishes to rule all of Erin, Maeve recognizes that only she can lead the battle to unite Erin in peace.

What a marvelous tale of Irish legend! Watson paints a vivid picture of a fierce yet vulnerable Maeve-tired of being cast aside as a mere woman, a fierce warrior in her own right, stubborn, gifted, and capable of deep love and compassion for her people and those close to her. Although the men surrounding her view her as a power hungry she-wolf using her femininity to get her way, it is clear from the beginning of this novel that Maeve’s love for her country is most important. I wasn’t sure of the more mystical elements involving the Druid Ruan and the Source at first but I warmed to this part as I read further and got a better idea of what the Source was and the purpose of the Sidhe. I thought she captured this aspect and the beliefs of those who worship the old Gods very well. Interwoven in the story is also the Irish hero Cuchulainn. Here he is Conor’s champion whose fierce loyalty to his people overrides his desire to leave the mad king’s service. Maeve’s forces battle the great Champion in one on one combat making for some ferocious and gory scenes. This is but another character that weaves life into the story. I think this is the element I liked most in the book-the conflicted characters. Almost every one of them has some internal struggle between what their hearts tell them is right and what their honor or loyalty tell them to do.

The novel also includes a list of important people and places as well as a map and pronunciation key in the front. While helpful, it still took me awhile to get the pronunciation of character names and places right. In almost every instance the word sounds completely different than how it is written. It took me a little while to get going with the story because I was flipping back to the front for help with the words so much but once I got used to it I was able to move right along. I’ve only read one other novel concerning Irish myth and legend and I enjoyed Maeve’s story very much. Deidre of the Sorrows makes a brief appearance in Raven Queen and I am looking forward to reading the author’s book the Swan Maiden for her interpretation of that legend.

This book was sent to me from the Publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review :)

To visit additional stops on this tour for author interviews, more reviews, and giveaways please see the Raven Queen Tour Schedule.


  1. Irish legend is always fun to read about it; great review, will keep my eye out for this one!

  2. I have not read any books about Irish legends so this is intriguing to me. Thanks for the review!

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  4. Great review -- I've been hearing such good things about this one!