Lawrence Patrick O’Brien
Loonce Publishing (2021)
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (01/2022)
“Clochan”, by Lawrence Patrick O’Brien, is a powerful and entertaining story about a young Irish man named Kevin Neal who comes of age in the shadow of Blackstairs Mountains. The timeframe is prior to the great famine, and Kevin is the youngest of the Neal boys. He manages to survive war but thinks he’s lost everyone. The mountain people care for him and help him on his way. He’s strong and resilient, and meets up with Anastasia Kelly, his childhood friend, who has changed from the girl he remembers. She’s a bit standoffish now. Violence surrounds them, and they have few places to hide. The orphans do what they can do to survive in the face of an Irish rebellion, but something dangerous is on the loose, and Keven doesn’t know how to fight it.
O’Brien has created a masterful story of suspense, mystery, action, and adventure—all rolled into an Irish historical fantasy novel. It has everything an adventure fan would want: strong characters and a solid story that just keeps getting better as it goes along. The folklore is interesting, and of course the romance is the perfect balance for all of that action and drama. This author is exceptionally skilled at building worlds, characters, and tension. And old Ireland comes to life in a way that it doesn’t in history books. You will enjoy taking this journey with Neal.
The dialogue is dynamic, and the coming-of-age theme against the backdrop of war is poignant and powerful. The author has conducted a respectable amount of research to bring such a ring of authenticity to his novel, and we readers are rewarded with an imaginative and realistic story of mystery and history. I like the character arc that the author gave to Kevin, who seems like a flesh-and-blood person. We feel what he feels, think what he thinks, but we’re given enough room to think ahead and wonder what Kevin will have to face next and how he will handle it. It’s good to see how all of those forces shaped his life, and that he took his life and circumstances into his own hands whenever he could. I liked Anastasia as a character too, and she seemed like a three-dimensional character instead of a caricature.
Some parts will break your heart, but this is what a good book and a good writer can do. Very well-done. “Clochan”, by Lawrence Patrick O’Brien, is a historical fantasy fan’s delight.