Morgalion is a monumental mix of historical narrative and an appealing fictional story of people who lived through the terrible events recited. It is the early 14th century in Ireland, a mere 150 years after the first Normans arrived and Henry II of England managed to get the pope’s permission to take possession of the island. Edward II is now on England’s throne and the Irish chieftains are reasserting their claim on their old lands. Into this conflict comes Edward the Bruce, the younger brother of Robert the Bruce of Scotland, who is supported by the O’Neills of Ulster in a bid to become the High King of all Ireland and kick the Sassenachs out and over the Irish Sea back to England. Most of the book recounts the history, the events and little of it in the form of a dramatized narrative.
The story is about a tiny village called Moynagh in a region known as Meath. This village lives more or less peacefully but separately with a town run by “the Gall,” the Gaels’ term for those of Anglo-Norman descent. Cormac, a studious lad, is forced to join the O’Reilly clan as a soldier when the evil Sir Miles deCogun, a thoroughly nasty piece of work, destroys his village and forces its resident into houses in town. When O’Reilly joins in the Bruce’s campaign, he becomes entangled in about a million different subplots, all of them interesting and enjoyable if sometimes a little surprising. In the process he decides to create a marriage of his learning at the feet of Father Robert and his growing knowledge of and respect for Irish traditions and create a Bardic school back in his hometown of Moynagh.