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HFC Editorial Review of "Bad Blood" by C. R. Dempsey

About the Author

C R Dempsey is the author of ‘How to be a saint’ and ‘Bad Blood’. CR has always had a deep interest in history and this has heavily influenced his fiction writing, but he likes to have a sense of humour about it. C R spends lots of time working on his books, mainly in the twilight hours of the morning.

C R Dempsey lives in London with his wife and cat. He was born in Dublin but has lived most of his adult life in London.

Please click on the link below to join the mailing list where you can keep up with all C R Dempsey news.

Book Blurb

What would you do to save your clan?

Ireland 1585. When Eunan Maguire’s village is raided by the English, he flees, his parents are killed and he blames himself for their death.

When he meets Seamus MacSheehy, Seamus encourages him to go to the election of the new leader of the Maguire clan to claim his father’s voting rights. With Seamus’ guidance, he sets out to ingratiate himself with the new Maguire. But all is not well for Eunan is wracked with guilt because of the death of his parents and Seamus is not all he appears. The English invade Fermanagh, and he is called to fight.

Will Eunan discover the secret of his parent’s death? Will Eunan discover who Seamus MacSheehy really is and why he has taken such an interest in him? Can Eunan overcome his inner demons and save his clan from English onslaught?

Bad Blood is the first novel in the ‘Exiles’ series of Irish historical fiction novels. If you love fast-paced action and adventure orientated historical fiction then you will love this book.

Buy Bad Blood to discover this exciting new series today.

Editorial Review

You bark a lot for a little sparrow!”

Bad Blood by C. R. Dempsey is a rip-roaring sweeping saga into the 16th-century land wars of Ireland, and follows the journey of a boy growing to manhood in the midst of it all. Clans reign, and they fight one another for supremacy, all the while Queen Elizabeth I is gazing over their shores hungrily sending her troops to subdue them all under her rule.

Eunan is part of the Maguire clan, sent away by his emotionally distant parents to Enniskillen to learn the ways of a warrior, a Gallowglass fighter for the clans. After much ado of him learning to grow up and fight, under the strict eye of Desmond, who himself is connected with Hugh Maguire, THE Maguire of the clan, he finds himself struggling to find his identity in the midst of all the turmoil, and trying to reconcile the innate hatred he feels from his parents.

After Eunan’s training, he is sent back to his village, but Eunan’s thoughts are more about how he can kill his father, than the dangers of the English soldiers who are destroying Irish villages as fast as they can. In a sudden attack, the village is raided, his parents are killed, and he flees, all the while blaming himself and his bad blood for the curse of their death.

Upon fleeing, he comes upon a group of Gallowglass warriors, and meets Seamus MacSheehy, who encourages Eunan to attend the election of the clan leader and take up his father’s voting rights. Seamus takes the lead, guiding Eunan along the way as they both seek to ingratiate themselves with Hugh Maguire. They do this by successfully completing some “tasks” assigned to them by Hugh, which bolsters their rank in the clan, as well as some coin in the pocket and herds of cows for Eunan’s suffering village.

But all is not well with Eunan. His grief nearly overwhelms him... and having to deal with the headstrong, and sometimes overbearing, as well as blood-thirsty nature of his so-called friend Seamus.

At long last, the English invade Fermanagh and he is called to fight for the Maguire.

So many questions are answered along the way – the secret of his parent’s death, the identity of Seamus MacSheehy and his sudden interest in Eunan, and the inner turmoil that Eunan suffers from as he attempts to save the clan from the English invasion.

To say this book is rich with action, adventure, and deep meaty history is putting it mildly. This book is indeed graphic in the sense of the brutality of the clan wars, and the savagery of the English soldiers who took no quarter when bringing the Irish to heel. That being said, sometimes the immense amount of history embedded into the novel overshadows Eunan’s story and the passages relay more as a non-fiction book with bursts of fiction.

But, this story is about as real as you can get for a depiction of Ireland in the mid-1500s. Eunan’s character relates to the reader as he deals with the commonality of human struggles – grief, abandonment, desperate for acceptance, and self-doubt. As a supporting character, Seamus provides a balance since he tends to go to the other extreme by showing no emotion at his kills, entitlement, and self-assurance edging towards arrogance.

I am reminded of the Irish fellow in the movie ‘Braveheart’ as the author managed to capture the clever quips and verbiage of Ireland in a way that you can actually feel the accents in the dialogue.

Plus, there is definitely the ‘Game of Thrones’ feel to the storyline as the constant struggle for supremacy goes back and forth between clans. You get a sense that the author loves the era and the research into Irish politics is evident throughout the book.

Most of the time, books in this era focus on the Tudor reign of Henry VIII and Elizabeth, so this is a refreshing look of the time period from Irish eyes as they fail to band together to fight Elizabeth’s soldiers, thus suffering the consequences. We also are given the viewpoint from a Catholic standpoint as the Irish cling to the hope that Spain and the Papacy will send help, especially against a Queen they view as a heretic; but, alas, no help comes and the Catholic Irish clans are on their own with the only help coming from Scottish mercenaries and their own Gallowglass warriors.

But even in that, the author paints the glim picture of warriors pledging their loyalty to a clan chieftain, but in reality are fighting for their own survival, and fighting with inferior training compared with that of England. This story is so familiar with other examples of a stronger government shoving its way into a smaller, weaker nation, stripping them of lands, resources, religion, and killing thousands, all in the name of enlightening a culture viewed as barbaric and backwards.

All in all, there are moments of riveting action amidst the heavy history, and while Eunan is the main character of the book, sometimes he felt a little to easily led by his friend Seamus, so his character never fully connected with me. Seamus was brutal, and frightening – certainly someone you would never want to meet in the dark woods, especially if he thought he might gain a little coin by taking off your head and stuffing it in a bag to present to the Maguire. His manner was so jarring at times.

A few highlighted passages that stood out to me:

Eunan was not expecting much, so he got nothing. Not the sun nor wind on his back, the chirping of the spring birds nor firm ground for his horse underfoot greeted his journey. The callous day of his return was frosty, as if even nature was telling Eunan not to return. He rode his horse into the village, as yet untroubled by his presence, and received no warm embrace from family, friend nor neighbour.”

You said you have bad blood that afflicts you. With Divine guidance, these leeches will such the bad blood away. I am also praying for spiritual guidance for you, your soul and me. This is what you wanted.”

What I wanted was to be free of this affliction. If this removes the curse, I’ll do it.”

You must have faith. Faith cures all. Believe in the goodness of God, and you will be free.”

After a thorough read and letting the story settle in my mind a bit, I am ready to move on to the sequel - “Uprising” - and see what is in store for Eunan Maguire.

“Bad Blood” by C. R. Dempsey earns four stars from The Historical Fiction Company.

Dee Marley


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