Author: Pat McDermott
Publisher: MuseItUp Publishing
Buy Link: Buy A Band Of Roses Here!
Rating: You Gotta Read
Reviewed By: Erin O’Quinn
Irish kings still rule the Emerald Isle—and a princess is in trouble . . .
Ancient Irish traditions remain strong in a world where High King Brian Boru survived the Battle of Clontarf and established a dynasty that rules Ireland to this day. When greed for oil prompts England’s Regent to claim an Irish island in the North Atlantic, Ireland’s Crown Princess Talty becomes a pawn in a murderous plot to seize the throne of England.
From Japan to California to an eleventh century Ireland preparing for the Battle of Clontarf, Talty must hide her true identity, though she can’t hide her ingrained training as a member of the Fianna: the warriors who guard the Kingdom of Ireland. She brings home a discovery worth more than any oil well, yet all she wants is to return to her family and Neil Boru, the adoptive cousin she secretly loves and cannot have—or so she thinks. Neil has a secret of his own, one that emerges as the Boru clan works with MI6 to thwart an invasion of Ireland and bring Talty home.
On the cusp of its sequel Fiery Roses, this seems an especially good time to remind readers that McDermott has written a superb alternative history called A Band of Roses–the story of a band of Irish latter-day Fianna or warriors who are dedicated to saving their country and safeguarding the life of their King, Brian Boru.
In this book, Ireland is a monarchy like England, the imagined world that evolved in the aftermath of a different ending of the Battle of 1014. In this parallel universe of the 21st century, the famous clansman was not killed but went on to solidify his clan and ultimately to be the scion of a line of kings, ending in the present King Brian Boru of Ireland.
Beautiful crown princess Talty, daughter of the king, is targeted by a group of malicious British nobles out to gain oil rights to an island off the coast of Ireland, men who plot to kill her and take over Ireland itself. Badly injured, she manages not just to escape, but to continue her training as one of the Fianna. Her survival is kept a secret for several months even from her own cousins, the six other members of the family who, among others, comprise the famous band of warriors.
A Band of Roses is a taut story of high adventure and deadly intent. McDermott writes in a kind of spare style that keeps the reader’s pulse pounding. The devastation of an Irish oil rig in the opening chapters is heart-rending, yet the author maintains a certain grim distance from the bloodshed, letting us dwell instead on the evilness of the men who plan and execute the attack. Instead of waxing poetic about the stark beauty of the desert, for instance, she makes us feel the harsh environment and the sense of ever-present peril: “Blinded and choking, she pulled the robe over her face. A powerful gust knocked her down. Inch by inch she fumbled toward the rocks. She shrieked when her hand hit the furry corpse of a baby goat.”
In addition to being a story of conspiracy and adventure, this is a book of understated romance, as Talty and her cousin-by-adoption fall in love but are kept apart by centuries-old rigid legal strictures. Will they find a way to overcome the social stigma and come together, or will even members of her own family stand in the way of her happiness? “Then he was kissing her back, the taste of his mouth warming its way down her throat like the burn of fine brandy.” She makes the reader thrill to sensations that she merely suggests, and the result is delicious, leaving our imagination to consummate the scene.
McDermott explores a world made real recently by the long-theorized discovery of the God Particle, a scientific breakthrough that seems to validate the existence of multiple parallel universes. In A Band of Roses, Talty and a few colleagues actually explore one of those parallel worlds–the world in which Brian was actually killed, and where a bleak future awaits the few survivors.
In spite of the complexity of the plot and the deep research that went into its writing, McDermott has written a book that pulls the reader along at a breakneck pace, racing with Talty to outsmart the enemies who would end the very existence of her beloved father and her precious homeland. My heart was pounding throughout most of the book, cheering for the ingenious Fianna as they attempt to overcome a complex plot hatched by murderous conspirators.
I highly recommend A Band of Roses as a rare combination of tight prose, heady adventure and a touch of sweet romance. Fiery Roses may be just as good–but I don’t see how it could possibly be better than this superlative first novel!