Liam MacUistin,
The Hunt for Diarmaid & Grainne
(O'Brien, 1996; reprinted, 2000)

The saga of Fionn Mac Cumhaill is a glorious series of tales from Ireland's heroic age. But it ends badly, with the valorous Fionn growing old, bitter and jealous. It is from this lamentable time that The Hunt for Diarmaid & Grainne is taken. It's not a pretty or happy chapter from a great man's legend.

That said, Liam MacUistin tells it extremely well, in a package well-suited to young and old readers alike. The tale is eternally popular in Ireland, where the initials D&G have been carved across the countryside by romantic-minded vandals.

Fionn, the leader of the High King's war band, is nearing 70. His second wife is long dead, and he's lonely ... so he is overjoyed when his son Oisin proposes a marriage to the High King's young and beautiful daughter, Grainne.

Grainne agrees to Oisin's embassy, besotted from her youthful impression of the noble Fionn. But when they meet and she realizes how old he's grown, she regrets her decision. Spying Diarmaid at their wedding feast, she falls in love with the handsome warrior and persuades him to flee with her while the others sleep.

Diarmaid is torn between is overriding loyalty to Fionn and his growing love for Grainne. But together they cross the countryside in an effort to evade Fionn's furious pursuit.

It's not a proud tale, and it's not the finest moment for one of Ireland's greatest heroes. But the story itself, filled with action, romance and magic, is a good one, and MacUistin has the storyteller's art down pat. Laura Cronin's scattered artwork provides extra spice.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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