James A. Hetley,
The Summer Country
(Ace, 2002)

Maureen Pierce isn't a dreamer, someone born out of time and longing for the days of legends. She's a thoroughly modern woman, 28 years old and suffering through a harsh Maine winter, out of touch with her Irish roots and emotionally damaged after a sexual assault 18 years in her past. She has a secret even she knows nothing about.

Brian Albion is a member of an older race, a primal piece of Ireland's past who is very comfortable in the 21st century. He communes with door locks and car engines, and he has a penchant for casual heroism.

They're thrust together through the machinations of the Old Ones, figures from the legends of ancient Celts who dwell in the timeless and malleable Summer Country.

But this is certainly no sanitized fairy tale -- not only are the characters complex and moody, but the injuries they sustain in the course of action are realistic, their tortures at the hands of their enemies (both mental and physical) are painfully vivid.

Author James A. Hetley avoids some easy pitfalls. For instance, Maureen's sister, Jo, seems initially to be a two-dimensional figure in the background of Maureen's story, but she becomes well-rounded and complex in her own right, with a very different perspective on the events and personalities surrounding the two young women.

Hetley also makes Celtic music an integral part of the tale, weaving it as naturally into the text as authors Charles de Lint (whose endorsement of The Summer Country is prominently displayed on the cover) and Emma Bull.

This is a richly woven debut novel for Hetley, a bold entry into the realm of contemporary fantasy. I hope to see more in this vein from him soon.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 2 November 2002

Buy it from Amazon.com.