Monday, August 25, 2008

Historical Novels Review: SEEKERS OF THE CHALICE

Now that the August issue of Historical Novels Review is live, I can post this review which appears in that issue.

Brian Cullen, Tor, $25.95, hb, 368pp, 978-0-7653-1473-4

In ancient Ireland, in a time when gods and men walked the earth along with demons, the Chalice of Fire, the symbol of peace for Ulster, is stolen from the Red Branch. A small band of Seekers set out to recover and return the Chalice to the Red Branch to bring peace once again to the Ulster Kingdom.

Loosely based on the Táin Bó Cúailnge, or the Cattle Raid of Cooley, the concept is interesting – take the forms and structures of traditional high fantasy and apply them to Celtic mythology. Unfortunately, the execution does not meet those expectations. The characters are flat, stock characters without any depth. The action is meandering, a series of nearly identical disconnected fight scenes with a different enemy (vampires! Werewolves! Hags!) The Dreamworld/Otherworld/Earthworld concept was interesting, but never felt fleshed out.

The most frustrating and distracting issue with the book was the indifferent editing, including serious continuity errors toward the end of the story which made me shake my head and put the book down. It is an easy read overall, but for me, not a satisfying one.

The concept was interesting and I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I hope the planned second and third books in this trilogy continue the story and concept with more heart, more depth, and more polish.

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