Bright Sword of Ireland

Written by Juilene Osborne-McKnight
Review by Ilysa Magnus

Osborne-McKnight is an extremely talented storyteller, an accomplished folklorist, and a teacher of Celtic folklore and history. All of these considerable talents are brought to the task of transforming the otherwise one-dimensional Finnabair – the daughter of Queen Medb of Connacht – into a living, breathing character. Through her eyes we witness the conflict between Ulster and Connacht as the fight for control over the brown bull rages on.

It is around 10 A.D. Finnabair has abandoned her life with her Connachtmen; indeed, at the beginning of the book, she is trying to commit suicide. As a political pawn in a transaction orchestrated by her mother, Finnabair has been married off to a man she cannot abide. She hates her life, her husband, the world and particularly her mother, the seductive Medb, the paragon of sexuality and female power in Celtic lore.

Finnabair is saved, though, and her life from that point forward is a wonderment, peopled with such magnificent figures of Celtic lore as Cuchulainn, his wife, Emer, and the husband she comes to love, Rochad. The wisdom of the simple, plain Finnabair and her vast powers of healing save many warriors and ultimately, two civilizations.

What a gift Osborne-McKnight gives us in this fully-fleshed out Finnabair – not the second-class Finnabair of myth, but a woman of increasing power, insight and strength. I could not help but to love Finnabair because Osborne-McKnight intended that outcome. Every single one of Osborne-McKnight’s characters has had the breath of artistic genius breathed into him or her. Great historical notes, beautiful prose, a supremely talented writer at her absolute best.