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HFC EDITORIAL BOOK REVIEW - "The Curse of the Conchobar" by David Fitz-Gerald


Banished by one tribe. Condemned by another. Will an outcast's supernatural strengths be enough to keep him alive? 549 AD. Raised by monks, Conchobar is committed to a life of obedience and peace. But when his fishing vessel is blown off-course, the young man's relief over surviving the sea's storms is swamped by the terrors of harsh new shores. And after capture by violent natives puts him at death's door, he's stunned when he develops strange telepathic abilities. Learning his new family's language through the mind of his mentor, Conchobar soon falls for the war chief's ferocious daughter. But when she trains him to follow in her path as a fighter, he's horrified when his uncanny misfortune twists reality, causing more disastrous deaths and making him a pariah. Can Conchobar defeat the darkness painting his steps with blood?

When a young man is swept away from Ireland in a storm, he drifts endlessly in his boat on the ocean waves and awakens in the New World surrounded by strange voices and unfamiliar faces. These natives help him recover from dehydration and delirium but he is immediately jostled onward to a stark and savage environment unlike anything he knew in his sheltered upbringing under the watchful eye of Lector Beccan, the monk who raised him.

Meandering down the river in hewn canoes, Conchobar creates a rapport with one of the Indians, and discovers odd ability to absorb their language with incredible speed. In no time, he is communicating with his ‘guardian’ and resigning himself to a new life on these shores.

Like the sudden burst of lightning, another tribe attacks and Conchobar is taken hostage into another village, this one more family-oriented and inviting than the others who now lay in the own blood along the river. Something about this family speaks to his soul and instead of feeling like a hostage, he feels adopted. He feels like he belongs, especially as he comes to know the chief’s daughter, Ferocious Wind, whose beauty stirs new feelings within him and whose fiery eyes and ways teach him to become a warrior like her.

And yet, Conchobar hides a secret, one that follows him across the ocean and seeps into this village. He is cursed by a father he never knew, and a mother who died in childbirth... and the curse has followed him.

One by one, those he grows close to find themselves succumbing to the curse and Conchobar must sacrifice his love for Ferocious Wind to protect her family from harm. After leaving them, he travels a different path, one of self discovery and spiritual awakening, but he also discovers predators lurking in the dark woods of the Adirondacks. Will he ever see Ferocious Wind again or help bring peace to the two warring tribes? And what is this uncanny ability surging through his veins, upwards to the sky, through the earth and roots, and into the future?

The Curse of the Conchobar is an incredibly captivating story from the very first line to the last. Fitz-Gerald has done a remarkable job of painting a picture of early Native American life with all the brilliant colours of a North American fall landscape. This is full-on historical fantasy in cinematic expostulation all told through the eyes of one young man finding himself and finding the Great Spirit within and without. Fitz-Gerald’s words weave together as you would expect an expert storyteller to do, portraying history with the rawness needed and the gentleness expected in all the right places.

From the first chapter, I knew my day was spent. I could not put this book down, and the journey with Conchobar was an afternoon well read and satisfying. He is a character I will not soon forget and one still with me days after I have finished the story. Sometimes he is vulnerable, weak, innocent; next, he is soaring, powerful, wizard-like wielding this new-found power akin to the land of his birth. Is he a Druid awakened by the connection the Indians have to the Great Spirit? You will have to read the book to find out. And he is a survivor under the most trying of circumstances, from heart-wrenching loss to attacks from wild animals, he pushes on. I have to say that there were times I vacillated between being completely and utterly absorbed into the story to moments of disbelief, but after continuing on Conchobar’s awakening journey I realized the necessity of the fantastical elements of his otherworldly abilities. I am sure you will see what I mean.

And the way Fitz-Gerald handles the humanization of the Indians is stark and real, showing the compassion of a patriarchal society taking care of the other members like a great eagle feeding its young. Every thing they do, from gathering wood for a fire to killing animals for food is done in a beautiful ritualistic way to honour the earth and everything surrounding them. Honour, loyalty, trust, betrayal, love, fear, hate – all emotions connecting all people no matter if it is a young boy from Ireland or a mighty warrior-chief of an Adirondack tribe. By the time you reach the conclusion of the story and traverse the rocky landscape of warring tribes, loss, blood, and pain, even the odd “magic” feels very normal and needed. Sometimes it takes extraordinary ability to emerge from difficult circumstances and see the other side of the mountain, the hope peeking above the horizon, or at the end of your fingertips.

The depth of emotion Fitz-Gerald depicts in this novel is astounding and worthy of ten stars. I read somewhere that as an author, he is trying to find a place for this book among historical fiction or historical fantasy, but I have to say that I think this book is in a world of its own. So often I was reminded of Lieutenant Dunbar’s experience (Dances With Wolves) and sometimes I heard his voice as Conchobar spoke of the Indians, of Ferocious Wind’s beauty and strength, and of his own detailed account of what happens around him in this New World.

I can’t help but feel the author’s passion for the area of the Adirondack Mountains and the native people to my very core, as well as his love for an ancestry, of roots reaching far across the ocean into the Emerald Isle. You can sense the massive amount of research he did with every skilled line and word, and his world-building artistry is amazing.

The Curse of the Conchobar is breathtakingly vivid, taking you into planes of spirituality that you, at first, want to baulk at but once reached, you ride the story as if the Great Spirit has taken you by the hand and told you to follow in Conchobar’s footsteps. Once you start, don’t dare set this one aside. David Fitz-Gerald and his character, Conchobar, deserve every second, every minute, every hour spent traversing this mesmerising story.

Bravo, Mr Fitz-Gerald, Bravo! I am thrilled to know there are more in this series!!

CONGRATULATIONS Mr Fitz-Gerald - you are now the recipient of The Historical Fiction Company's 'Highly Recommended' award and are now in the running for the Book-of-the-Year to be announced in January!


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