Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: April 22
Genre: young adult, historical fiction
Maeve, princess of Connacht, was born with her fists clenched. And it’s her spirit and courage that make Maeve her father’s favorite daughter. But once he becomes the High King, powerful men begin to circle–it’s easy to love the girl who brings her husband a kingdom.
Yet Maeve is more than a prize to be won, and she’s determined to win the right to decide her own fate. In the court’s deadly game of intrigue, she uses her wits to keep her father’s friends and enemies close–but not too close. When she strikes up an unlikely friendship with the son of a visiting druid, Maeve faces a brutal decision between her loyalty to her family and to her own heart.
Maeve’s life is over-exaggerated — for better or worse — in bards’ songs. Sure, she was a daring five-year-old when she chased after her father’s prized bull. Yes, she learned how to use weapons against threatening beasts. And it’s true she speaks her mind, in a witty, intelligent, and clever manner. But Maeve is a princess in first-century Ireland, and an independent, headstrong young woman is one to be feared or beaten down with a stick. She’s determined to find solid ground to stand up for herself and her beliefs without angering her father, upsetting the land’s most powerful druid, and crushing the druid’s son, a healer and master with creatures.
Maeve, like King Arthur, is based on threads of fact but mostly of mythical fiction. Her frustrations are understandable, and the men in her life are equally supportive as well as manipulative, protective, and controlling. She can see right through them, and plays their game by speaking only the truth and pointing out inaccuracies and falsehoods. She wants to help her father defend the land — thus her warrior skills — but also wants to be a compassionate healer — thus her lessons with the druid’s son Odran. Maeve is a force of nature, admirable and wonderful to behold, and it was a joy reading her mind.
What I loved most about this book was what Friesner was able to accomplish with so little recorded historical information at the time. Truly, the tales that lasted from Iron Age Ireland are the tales sung by bards and centuries later recorded in manuscripts. Like the game “telephone,” both in Maeve’s experience as well as in research, only a grain of truth can be found in the poems. Even with little research, Friesner managed to concoct a beautiful and rich tale of love, friendship, and compassion in this tumultuous age. I loved the feast scenes — so much laughter and joy — and the moments Odran and Maeve spent in the hut caring for the animals. Every moment circled back to a previous, an endless loop of past events impacting the present, and it was fun to make the connections. Even the dark moments of sexist frustration and political intrigue were scattered with light, sarcastic commentary in Maeve’s thoughts.
A fun read for anyone interested in ancient historical fiction, fierce young women, and awesome names you’ll need a pronunciation guide to get anywhere close to its actual sound.
Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Random House Books for Young Readers for review!