J.D. McDonnell,
The Celtic Shelf
(POD, 2010)

The first book in J.D. McDonnell's Golden Allerod series takes readers back from the present day to a prehistoric "Celtic shelf" to trace dramatic changes in various ancient societies. Unfortunately, it does so literally, by starting out in present times and using a supernatural girl to drag a modern writer back in time.

If you get through this bizarre introduction, and its excuses for heavy-handed exposition, you'll get to the actual beginning of a story. Aegia, free-thinking daughter of a patriarchal village, invents critical tools such as the bow, and demonstrates inappropriate levels of understanding and independence to become a problematic heroine at the age of 9. Willing suspension of disbelief allows Aegia to shine as a likable and very reliable protagonist as she leads the story through a variety of action-packed travels.

The range of different societies and personalities that crop up in The Celtic Shelf keeps the story interesting, and a never-ending stream of obstacles keep the suspension alive through some chunky pacing and reappearances by the supernatural girl of incongruous commentary. However, while many of the characters hold their own personalities and receive their own backstory, the relationship dynamics between them are mostly glossed over. For example, you know who's paired up, but you very rarely see how the partners work together. On top of which, the real plot and personality-altering convictions happen due to flashes of insanity or throwing novelties into the mix instead of allowing any of the players to grow or affect each other naturally.

There are definite issues to be found in The Celtic Shelf, but there is an interesting and dynamic story there. For those who want an epic tale from a more savage society, or a rousing heroine to question man's position as leader from the earliest times, it's in there. But for more than 600 pages and sequels on the way, too much is missing for me to recommend it.

[ visit the author's website ]

book review by
Whitney Mallenby

14 August 2010

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