Randy Lee Eickhoff,
The Destruction of the Inn
(Forge, 2001)

Through three books of Ireland's great Ulster cycle, Randy Lee Eickhoff has captivated me with his command of the language and his vivid presentation of a glorious mythology. But his fourth volume, The Destruction of the Inn, broke that winning streak.

The Raid, The Feast and The Sorrows all brought the tales of Ulster's past to colorful, boisterous life. Unfortunately, there isn't much life in this one. The conclusion of the story is foreshadowed in the title, so there's no surprise there. The Irish king, Conaire Mor, never has a chance to overcome the odds because of a lengthy list of improbable geasa, or restrictions, placed on his head. Breaking them will shatter his good fortune, and yet he seems to have no way around them. And much of the book is taken up with a lengthy recitation of the inn's guest list, and every person there is a great hero whose deeds must be mentioned and whose prowess must be trumpeted. This might have been interesting if brief -- but more than 80 pages? Oy!

The action when it occurs is over too quickly, especially after the long and ponderous set-up.

Once again, Eickhoff is working with original material from Ireland's past -- in this case, from two early manuscipts first compiled in the 11th century -- so he doesn't have a lot of leeway for altering the text. However, after the great success of his earlier translations, this fourth installment was a letdown. Still, Eickhoff's track record is good, and I'll be watching for his next effort to get him back on his roll.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 21 July 2001

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