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Eirelan by Liam O'Shiel


by Liam O'Shiel

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    Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (allthesepieces)
    allthesepieces: Both books build complex stories that delve into the nature of loyalty in relationships.

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To be honest, I had a little bit of trouble getting into the book, however once I got past the first few chapters, I was hooked. I found this version of a future world to be fascinating, especially the future division of labour and occupations, particularly in the military and navy. The only main difficulty I had, were the names of the characters, not being as familiar with gaelic names as I would like. I enjoyed the book to such a degree, that I actually contacted the author in an effort to find out if there will be a sequel (I was told that there would be, eventually). Truly, a book that borders on epic, and I find myself hoping that we get to see it on the big screen someday, I think it would translate well into a movie. ( )
  zandoria | Nov 8, 2014 |
This review has been crossposted from my blog at The Cosy Dragon . Please head there for more in-depth reviews by me, which appear on a timely schedule.

Eirelan is a land under constant attack. Wartime has forced thoughts of the family behind battle plans and wounds with no ending in sight. The characters battle for their survival with no real sense of the future being any brighter. This novel documents how the scales begin to tip, and life is even more on a daggar's edge.

The perspective changes in the first couple of chapters gave me unhappy feelings - I like to follow one character, or perhaps two, all the way through the novel otherwise I get confused about their names (I do this in real life too). O'Shiel managed it very well, and despite swapping between the characters, I felt like I was getting to know them well and I could keep track of which was which with ease.

I struggled to get a full picture of the novel's contents. It wasn't clear to me why Eirelan was being invaded in the first place. The first 200 or so pages built for me an image of a series of ever lasting battles, and an impending final push, but I didn't see why that was happening. I couldn't understand why they were fighting, or it was that I didn't care? I didn't get a bigger picture, a sense of climax, just a series of small battles which all were destroying the characters' souls. The dreams that each of the characters had were neatly slipped into the text though. This all improved in the second half of the novel, and I couldn't put it down.

The dialogue often seemed stilted and artificial, as did some of the scenery descriptions. There were also several instances where I noted far too much listing! At the same time though, the information about how a ship works, and the log entries and so forth were valuable and I enjoyed reading them.

I haven't really decided how I feel about chapters starting with little quotes/notes/diary entries since I read the 'Quantum Physics' book which completely put my off quotes. The diary entries and things work well here though, because often it provides a concrete link between the two flanking chapters. That grounding helped with the perspective changes.

Conor is obsessed with his dream of the cottage and children. I can understand it, but I'm not sure why he feels compelled to bring it up with everyone he meets. Things in Marien's past are hinted at slowly and subtly, and I really felt like I was guessing correctly - a bit of mystery was good all the way through.

I liked the undertones of Marien and Conor's relationship, and the swift decisions that must be made in wartime. It all seemed a little incestuous really because everyone seemed to have known each other for an age before they became partners. That wasn't a negative for me at all because it made it easier for me to keep track of them.

A sign that I loved this book was that by the time I was nearing the last 200 pages or so I was dreading getting to the end because I loved the characters so much. Why did some of them have to die? Ah yes, the battle scenes were excellent, even though the perspective changed a fair bit there too, and I really wanted to skip ahead to find out what was going to happen next for that particular character.

There are deeper themes in this book too, the endless cycle of war and peace that even our current world seems unable to let go of. It seems to be human nature - but what this novel tries to point out is that we are all humans, and we all are essentiall the same when it comes to having families and loving eachother.

I usually love Celtic/Gaelic literature, and I wasn't disappointed by this novel despite a couple of nit-picky things I have mentioned (as always, I find it easier to comment on the bad rather than the good). It was one of the few Goodreads: First Reads books that I had marked as to-read before I even knew I had won it. I was super excited to receive it in the mail and set about reading it right there and then. It has caused me to neglect other things I should be doing - a sign that it's a good one!

I've marked this book as both fantasy and historical fiction. I don't think it's strictly either - although it is not obvious til the second half of the book, it is set in the future (if I missed it in the first half, it was because I was too engrossed in the characters). Fantasy to me involves magic and impossible things - something that this novel lacks. But then again, it's not really historical fiction (as far as my limited knowledge tells me), because of the women being allowed to fight (it seems like all of the women are on ships or are Bows) and having political roles. Eirelan sounds almost exactly like Ireland! And at one point, there is a map shown to Marien which has England and other 'real' countries on it.

I'd likely recommend this book for adults and teens who like Celtic/Gaelic fiction and enjoy a good battle scene. For some reason it feels to me like a teenage book, but the descriptions of violence make me suggest it is for older teens. I guess there is not as much depth as I expect for a purely adult book, although it is certainly thick enough to be one at almost 800 pages.

4.5 stars from me (from Goodreads) and I can't wait to read the second novel in this series. Earlier reviews have complained of typos in the kindle copy, the majority of those have been ironed out in my beautiful hard copy with creamy pages.

I received this book to review through the Goodreads: First Reads program, but I was not compensated in any other way to write a positive review. All opinions are my own and unbiased despite receiving a free book. ( )
  Rosemarie.Herbert | Feb 26, 2013 |
I approached Eirelan's near 800 pages with some trepidation. As a Member Giveaway win I knew I would feel obligated to complete it and make an assessment, however it felt like a book I may be interested in and I hoped it wouldn't be a chore.
I need not have been concerned; Eirelan is a fabulous page turner, epic in scope, beautifully crafted and skillfully structured to maintain the reader's attention.
It takes an enormous leap of imagination though to pitch a story 4000 years in the future and make it completely devoid of any science fiction. In fact O'Shiel has written a medieval drama and by setting it in a future era so far away from any scope of existing expectations he has cleverly avoided being burdened by any need for historical references which may bear scrutiny. We hear vaguely of 'the age of machines' yet it is left entirely to the reader to interpret how or when catastrophe fell and a new world order emerged which resembled that which we hear of in history books. Eirelan is a country we know as Ireland which is partitioned into The Province, a rural, heathen, haven, and the world outside its ramparts made up of crumbling cities to which the old Church still holds sway.
Once you get past some oddly fanciful scene setting of nautical terminology, cosy games of poker, pub lunches, Irish stew, and pints of stout, you are thrown into a world of warriors, clans, and feuds, families and lovers, politics, and fierce battles on land and at sea.
Belief suspended, the story telling comes to the fore and O'Shiel creates characters to believe in, varied and complex, human and troubled, real and easy to relate to and come to know.
The people of The Province have endured attacks for centuries which have reached a critical point at which survival of their way of life is threatened for good. Concurrent battles need to be fought and won against foes at home and abroad, and for which old adversaries are needed to be become allies to withstand the onslaught from common enemies. O'Shiel uses a deep knowledge of maritime matters to good effect without alienating a reader rooted to the land and whose only experience of the sea around Eirelan is the 'vomit comet' trips from Holyhead to Dublin, 1960s style.
In O'Shiel's Eirelan women and men are equal in the family, in politics and in armed service. It is the women in the main that command the warships, and women fight skillfully and doggedly amongst the Blades and the Bows. No guns here, only swords, armour, pikes, maces, and arrows which are used to brutal effect.
The stories and relationships within the story are well woven and flow seamlessly such that it would be easy to imagine Eirelan as a blockbuster movie or serious TV drama series.
At no point in the near 800 pages did I find myself struggling or wishing the book to end, indeed I am looking forward to the author's promised second installment and to enjoying the company of Connor, Oran, Feth, Mairan, Aideen, and their families, friends and comrades once again. ( )
  DekeDastardly | Mar 26, 2012 |
Eirelan is, via storyline, length, characters, and subject, the type of book I generally rave about.

I did, in fact, enjoy reading it. It is, for me, a book about survival, sacrifice, loyalty (to friends, family, community), and heart.

What I think threw me about the book - and could very well be just my own reaction to it - is that, according to the Amazon.com description, the time is "Province Year 999, also known as AD 3953."

While I do not necessarily need to know what kind of events led to the people of Eirelan to live in a medieval type of society in the future (it is, as a matter of fact, a great draw for me), I would have liked to see a possible prologue to set up the events.

Outside of that little bit of nit-pickiness on my part, a wonderful read. ( )
  strogan | Mar 8, 2012 |
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"As Uinseann often says, we must be content with life and love and the beauty of the Earth. All the rest is dust in the wind." - Journal of Liadan.

Enter into a familiar world that is unfamiliar, a friendly world that is threatening, a world where honor and sacrifice are expected of all. You will meet many wonderful people in this world, and some not so wonderful at all. Conor, Fethnaid, Oran, Liadan, Padraic, Mairin, Aideen, Uinseann, Bradaigh -- they travel a road unlike ours. It is a dangerous road, yet one well worth exploring.

In Eirelan you will live for two months with men and women, old and young, fighters and writers, poets and ship captains, who cannot take for granted that anything they treasure will survive another year, let alone be the inheritance of their children. They dream of a life without fear and struggle. They long for a life filled with love and family and friendships instead of bloodshed and loss and desperate undertakings. --Amazon.com
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"The Province of the Twenty Clans, founded on the shores of Lough Ennell in Ireland, is about to celebrate its millennial year. As this milestone year approaches, The Province and its Celtic allies in Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Brittany are threatened by an ever-colder climate overspreading Europe and by determined, powerful enemies on land and sea"--Cover.… (more)

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