The Swan Maiden
Bantam, Feb 24 2009, $12.00
In Erin, Deirdre at her birth is blessed with a beauty that is legendary even as a newborn. However, she is also cursed that her beauty will lead to civil war and the destruction of the kingdom of Ulster and consequently the downfall of King Conor. Chief Druid Cathbad upon hearing of the prophesy pleads with his monarch to either kill the baby or exile her. Fascinated by what Deirdre will be, Conor hides her in a remote forest in the province of Ulaid; the child is raised by foster-parents Connacht and Mumu and taught by Druid Levarcham the art of magic and nature.
Years pass and Deidre has gown into the most beautiful woman in the kingdom; perhaps the world. Conor wants her, but she is the captive of three rebellious Red Branch sibling warriors. Naisi the eldest hates the aging monarch and to his chagrin falls in love with his captive. He wants to take her away from Ulaid as his wife, but his younger brothers Ardan and Ainnle disagree. Besides Deirdre may love him back but has doubts about leaving her druidic forest. The final stage of the prophecy of Deirdre has begun
This retelling of the Irish mythological equivalent of Helen of Troy is a terrific saga that brings to life the Ancient Celtic period. The cast is solid especially the king, Naisi, and the title character. Although the detail into Celtic Erin can slow down the story line and move it more to a historical than a mythos, readers will enjoy the Irish rendition of “the face that launched a thousand ships”.