This is one of those books that turns out to be much, much better than you anticipated.
Warning: There will be no spoilers here for
- Brighid’s Quest
, but since it was the second book in a series, there WILL be spoilers for it’s prequel,
- Elphame’s Choice
. You have been warned.
I chose this book for one, possibly insignificant quality, which made it impossible for me to resist. I have never, ever seen the name ‘Brighid’ in print. This matters to me because my name was very close to being Brighid, and no one I ever met would have been able to spell or pronounce it correctly. It’s Irish, and Irish is just one of those impossible languages. And all the names in this book were Irish, so I’m sure I mispronounced all of them. Nevertheless, my enjoyment of the book was not hindered by strange names.
This book is about a centaur named Brighid (pronounced Bree-id) who, prior to the events depicted within the book, left her heard and joined the human Clan MacCallan as their Huntress, casting aside her birthright as High Shaman of her herd, following her mother. Her mother, Mairearad (pronounced Mah-rade, according to the internet), was a manipulative, hateful woman who despised humans and wanted her daughter to follow in her footsteps. Regardless, Brighid has found her place with the MacCallan Clan, and a friend in it’s leader, Elphame (El-fame).
A whole lot of plot actually happened before this book, for a very good reason- as it turns out, this is the second book in the Partholon series (Partholon being the magical world in which the story takes place), the first book being Elphame’s Choice. But I didn’t actually realize that until about halfway through, because everything you need to know is very well-explained. There was not one single moment where I was wondering what was up.
I just seriously distracted myself with music…. This is being more difficult than usual to write. Anyway.
Elphame has a brother named Cuchulain (Co-cue-lin) who suffered the death of his beloved at the end of the first book, which left him damaged and hurting. A shell of a man, he went off to find a group of refugees living in the Wastelands- remnants of a species of demon/human hybrids called New Fomorians. Insert backstory about Fomorian War and Elphame breaking their curse (all of which happened in the first book), Cu’s been gone for far too long so Brighid offers to go to the Wasteland, find him and the New Fomorians and help bring them back to Partholon.
She finds him easily enough (though she hates the Wasteland), but as soon as she does she remembers just how off he’s been since Brenna’s death and how painful it is for her to see him like this. Lots of things happen which could probably be construed as spoilers, but Cu needs fixing and through many twists of fate, Brighid has to be the one to do it.
Now, since this book is definitely fantasy, there is a very large spiritual element revolving around the Goddess Epona, who is very real and actually visits important people and shows signs of her divinity. Epona’s power lies in the existence of different spiritual realms, and some people, properly blessed, can access this power, or are given power as a gift or reward for something. Brighid, as the daughter of a High Shaman, is one of those who has a close relationship to the spiritual realm, though she mostly ignores it because she relates it to her mother. Cuchulain is the same way, though perhaps even more averse. Still, to save her best friend’s brother, Brighid puts aside her own discomfort and his and dives headfirst into the Otherworld.
And that’s only the first part of the book.
Not a spoiler: They fall in love. It says that on the summary of the book, so it’s not surprising or anything. It takes a while, though.
The book, I feel, can be split into three parts:
1) Saving Cuchulain and the New Fomorians
2) Falling in love (this really does take about a third of the book, it’s a very complicated romance- her being half-equine and all)
3) Becoming a High Shaman and defeating her mother
About the romance (which is very, very well done)- Brighid feels stirrings of her feelings for Cu for about 200 pages, but doesn’t think about them even a little. She just flat-out ignores them because to her, Cu is still healing from his loss, and she’s half horse. Once Cu is healed, though (which, in true teen-fantasy-romance style, happens with a kiss), he begins to realize his own feelings for Brighid, and proves to be much more stubborn about them than she is. So, they fall in love.
How do they get around this biological anomaly? Well it actually works out quite well. Due to strife in her homeland, Brighid realizes that she will have to take the step and become a High Shaman, which is a spiritual journey which will give her the power to shape-shift. So, by fulfilling her destiny, she will also be able to mate with Cuchulain. But it’s all very plot-heavy because she does have to fulfill her destiny first.
So that about covers the plot. Now the thing when I picked up this book is that I expected it to be alright, but probably not great. Judging by the cover and plot summary, I really expected it to be somewhere on par with Twilight as far as teen romance fantasies go. It was so much better than Twilight. There was much, much more plot, the characters were three-dimensional with their flaws and quirks and nuances, the emotions were strong, and the thing as a whole was remarkably well-written. Things which at a glance would seem rather hard-to-swallow (like shape-shifting and goddesses) were depicted in a very believable way and I was not once shaking my head in disbelief. Seriously, this was a good book.
This week I actually started my next book while still reading this one- not something I would usually do, but circumstances being what they were. It’s sort of difficult to read two books at once. But now that I’ve finished this one, I can focus on the other one and should finish it in the next week. But maybe not. Christmas vacation starts today, but I have papers to write and Latin to complete and overall drudgery to suffer through. I have a small pile of books which I’ve been neglecting in favor of Things That Jump Out At Me in the Library (such as Brighid’s Quest), and last night I was at Barnes & Noble and I found a copy of The History of Love (on my rec list, it’s one of the best books I have ever read) which I really, really wanted to buy but didn’t. I forced myself to wait until after Christmas. I’m just about to call the library and order a couple of books from Val’s rec list as well, so those will go on my pile because I’ve been putting them off for longer than I had intended. Sorry V.
And I suppose that would wrap things up. Very well, then. Happy holidays, all. May you receive many books.