Liath Luachra is the second book in the Irish Woman Warrior series but stands alone from the events of book one. Having not read the first book, I can happily say that The Swallowed doesn’t require prior knowledge of Brian O’Sullivan’s other books to understand what’s going on. As you can probably guess by the series name, Irish Woman Warrior is heavily inspired by Irish culture and is set in second century Ireland.
The book starts off with a nice link to a pronunciation guide for all the heavily Gaelic inspired names throughout the book. While a useful guide, I still found the names a bit confusing at times, particularly because I’m not a fan of pausing my reading to look up how to pronounce a name, and there are a few similar ones. It does a lot to add to the authenticity of the Irish setting though.
O’Sullivan does a fantastic job of creating the world and building up an image in your mind. Sights, smells, and sounds of the landscape are described in such detail that you can quite easily imagine the setting. The book is set in a desolate region in central Ireland filled with forests, marshes, and mountains and is all about the tribal conflicts of the time.
Liath Luachra, the main character, and her war band are unceremoniously thrown into the internal politics of a tribe they’d received a job from. Without much choice in the matter, they are sent on a mission to find a group of missing settlers. Naturally, things didn’t go according to plan. Overall, the plot was quite interesting. It started off a bit slow at first as O’Sullivan manipulated the characters into their bad situation, but the second half was quite interesting.
The biggest thing that bugged me in this book was the characters. Without having read the previous books I didn’t really know much about them and didn’t see much growth or backstory over the course of the story. As someone who really loves character based books, this was a bit of a downer for me, and I’d have loved to see more character development over the course of the book. There was also a lot less dialogue than I expected. Liath Luachra has a dark past and tends to avoid talking where possible, so the book ended up with very little dialogue, but a whole lot of action and worldbuilding was there instead.
Overall, Liath Luachra was a nice book, but it really wasn’t what I’m a fan of. There’s a lot of interesting mythological bases in there, good world building, and great action scenes, but, in my opinion, it fell short on the characters.
I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy:
- Historical Fantasy
- Grimdark Fantasy
- Action Scenes
- Plot-driven books
- Female MCs
- Ireland & Irish History/Mythology