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The Elizabethan Wars in 16th Century Ireland - an Editorial Review of "Bad Blood"

Book Blurb:

A gripping fast-paced historical fiction adventure set in rebellious Ireland in the 1590s.

Eunan Maguire lives in a small village in Fermanagh. He is mistreated by his parents and then taken to Enniskillen as a hostage to ensure his father’s loyalty. He returns after being trained as a Galloglass warrior to confront his parents and to ensure his father pledges to the prospective new Maguire. But before he can do that the English raid his village, his parents are killed, he flees to save himself, and he blames himself for their death.

When he flees he meets Seamus MacSheehy, the head of a wandering band of Galloglass warriors. Seamus listens to his story and encourages him to take his father’s title of the head of the village. Eunan goes to the election of the new leader of the Maguire clan to claim his father’s voting rights. With Seamus’s 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. Fermanagh is torn apart by faction fighting and the English invade. He is called to fight for the new Maguire.

Will Eunan find out why his parents hated him so much and was it connected to the mysterious circumstances around their death? Will Eunan discover who Seamus MacSheehy really is and why he has taken such an interest in him? Or will the clan fall and perish under the English onslaught?

Bad Blood is the first book in the epic Irish historical fiction Exiles series. It is set against the backdrop of the Elizabethan wars in Ireland in the 1590s. A world of Irish clans, their politics and the fight for supremacy, where spies and intrigue prosper, where the embers burn for a rebellion against the English crown. 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.

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Author Bio:

C R Dempsey is the author of ‘Bad Blood’, ‘Uprising’, Traitor Maguire’, and ‘Breach of the peace’, four historical fiction books set in Elizabethan Ireland. He has plans for many more, and he needs to find the time to write them. History has always been his fascination, and historical fiction was an obvious outlet for his accumulated knowledge. C R spends lots of time working on his books, mainly in the twilight hours of the morning. C R wishes he spent more time writing and less time jumping down the rabbit hole of excessive research.

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.

C R can be found at:

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

Editorial Review:

Bad Blood by C.R. Dempsey is a fast-paced, action-packed historical novel. Dempsey grips readers from the first page and leaves them on the edge of a cliffhanger, wanting more, by the last page. Bad Blood is set in the late 1500’s in Ireland. During this time, Ireland was divided by interclan warfare and riddled with danger from the invading English armies. A person’s loyalty to clans or the Crown was typically bargained for, bought outright or taken by force and violence. The constant shifts in power as well as the duty to serve, feed and clothe the men at arms typically impoverished and demoralized ordinary village folk.

Eunan’s father, Cathal Maguire, is chieftain of his village. In order for Cathal to prove his loyalty to the Maguires, he is required to give up his son, Eunan, to be housed, educated and trained as a soldier for the Maguire. What would typically be viewed as a tragedy to most parents seems almost to be a blessing to Cathal Maguire. Neither Eunan’s mother nor father make any attempt to retain their son, nor do they express any sadness over giving him up. This is exemplified by the fact that the man coming to collect Eunan does not believe that Eunan is Cathal’s son due to his lack of emotion when giving him up. This is clear based on what he says to Cathal, “You would have us believe a chieftain would give up his son without so much as a tear or a goodbye and walk away from him?” said Donal.”

Their lack of love and outright cruelty to Eunan leave him feeling confused, rejected and lost. He is constantly reminded by them of what they call his ‘bad blood.’ This bad blood looms like a dark prophecy over Eunan, controlling his very thoughts and actions. Despite being reminded of his inferiority and innate evil, why Eunan is considered to have bad blood is a mystery to both Eunan and reader alike. It is not until the end of the story where the secret is finally revealed in a shocking turn of events.

Eunan’s lack of a solid identity fuels his mission in becoming a great soldier. He finds solace in throwing his axes and learning to fight as is evidenced by the following passage, “The memories of his mother were the volcano that pumped the bad blood around his body, leaving in its wake his black heart. He did not deserve his mother’s love for scraping out her womb and leaving her broken, like the Viking raider she always accused him of being. A boy with a black heart like him could always find solace in an axe, the way to express to the world the bad blood in him. He drifted slowly to sleep all his bad thoughts and dreams succumbing to his injury and other exhaustion of the day.”

Not only do his parents shun and reject him, but the entire village does as well. We are further reminded of Eunan’s bad blood when he is confronted by an eccentric priest who has visions and appears to have some form of psychic powers. The priest’s words have a devastating effect on Eunan, ““Devils fly within them veins,” the priest said, his nostrils flaring and his own veins popping from his neck. “I can see them crawl around your face. They climb out of a black hole in your heart and rummage around your brain, causing their mischief and taking hold of your mind. You have bad blood, boy. You have bad blood.”

Eunan excels in his training as a soldier and returns home to ensure his father’s loyalty to the Maguire. As always where his parents are concerned, rejection and mockery are all he receives. Unfortunately, matters become even worse when the English show up, ransack and destroy the village. Eunan witnesses his father’s death and leaves the village to get help. It is on this journey where he is stopped by Seamus MacSheehy, a Galloglass mercenary, and his men. He is initially captured and taken prisoner; however, Eunan strikes a deal, promising Seamus that he will find him and his men gainful employment as they are currently living like bandits in the woods.

Seamus and Eunan have a complicated relationship which only becomes more entangled and confused as certain events in the past are revealed to Eunan. While Seamus is typically brutal and quick to violence, he is strangely protective over Eunan. This leaves the readers guessing as to what ulterior motive Seamus could possibly have.

While Seamus is clearly a hardened warrior, he is also insightful and has a strong sense of survival. Despite fighting endless battles for numerous lords, Seamus understands the pointlessness of it all. This is evidenced in a conversation he has with Eunan, ““What do you know about freedom from the English? You live in a pretty little village beside a lake and never meet anyone unless you go to the market. The Maguire is like a benevolent God from afar who takes your crops and money and kidnaps your youth and, if you are especially unlucky, sends a few parasitic Galloglass to come and live with you and bleed you dry. All you would do is swap the Maguire for an English lord. You want to give your life up for some lord and the promise that your villagers will think you heroic for dying in a bog with an axe in your head? I’m old because I learned how to survive. I fear you won’t make it as far, for all your yearnings to be a hero!” This passage reveals the author’s ability to embed significant moral lessons throughout the story. In this case, that would be that there truly is no such thing as good or bad, or a right or wrong side. While Eunan idolizes the Maguire and believes that fighting for the Maguire clan is akin to fighting for God, Seamus knows otherwise. Maguire or not, these are all men with the foibles and follies typical of the human species.

Reading Bad Blood was like watching a movie unfold. The reader becomes completely absorbed within the story with all its plot twists, overarching power struggles and countless battles. Embedded within these machinations is Eunan’s personal struggle to find love and a sense of belonging. Bad Blood is a riveting page turner with well-developed characters and vivid descriptions, transporting the reader back to a more violent, unsettled time in history.


“Bad Blood” by C. R. Dempsey receives 4.5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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