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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bending the Boyne - a story that wound itself around my heart
I'm Irish and, on being lured by the blurb of this book, was a little afraid that I was going to find just another tale written about old Ireland from an outsider's point of view.

However, since reading it I have found it winding itself around my memory and my heart. It's different from anything I've ever read before on the ancient history of Ireland. In fact,...
Published on March 20, 2011 by Lark Spring

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29 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good archeology, terrible editing.
For a plot summary, you'll have to refer to another review. I thought my review was already running too long, so I cut the plot description out.

I was intrigued by this book when I saw it listed as an Early Reviewer offering at Librarything.com. I love historical fiction, and I enjoy archeology - but I know very little of the Stone Age/Bronze Age and even...
Published on May 23, 2011 by Suzi Hough


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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bending the Boyne - a story that wound itself around my heart, March 20, 2011
This review is from: Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland (Paperback)
I'm Irish and, on being lured by the blurb of this book, was a little afraid that I was going to find just another tale written about old Ireland from an outsider's point of view.

However, since reading it I have found it winding itself around my memory and my heart. It's different from anything I've ever read before on the ancient history of Ireland. In fact, while there are quirky bits of history inserted like pebbles into the landscape of the story, it concerns not mere history, but the myths and legends that are deeply rooted in our past.

The many and varied characters make no concession to their place in this mythical/historical setting. They live their lives as they would have all those years ago, uncaring of the modern reader. That is not to say that the story is disdainful of readers, but that it is uncompromising in its pursuit of the mythical truths that underlie all really good historical novels.

The Boyne of the title is the river that winds through the heart of Ireland and its history. It was at the Battle of the Boyne that the forces of the Catholic King James and Protestant King William met in a clash that echoes down the centuries and has left its mark on the whole society of Ireland, north and south.

J. S. Dunn's delightful novel shows the sowing of the first seeds of conflict between invaders and native Irish, or those who preceded them. It harks back to a time when myth and history were one, as they remain in our subconscious to this day. The natives are shown to be thoughtful, wise astronomers, with their eyes firmly fixed on the skies for signs of the modern Ireland that must surely have appeared to them in visions and dreams. Yet they will not yield their land to the more down-to-earth and less wise invaders, who seek gold not for its relationship to the sun, but for the power and earthly wealth it can bring them.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Story of Struggle for all Students of the Ancient Gaels..., June 2, 2011
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This review is from: Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland (Paperback)
As a researcher into ancient Irish history myself, I found a lot to admire in Bending the Boyne. The characters are well-developed from accurate historic and sociological sources and overall, is an excellent take on the Gaelic invasion of early Ireland. The implementation of the use of metals by the invaders is a good plot carrier, and the research into early bronze age metallurgy pays off in seamless passages and very interesting narrative of the Western European trade routes first accomp0lished by the Phoenicians. I also was quite caught up in the astronomy of the ancients as portrayed through their mature, observed spirituality. While the book might have benefited from a few footnoted references when the author freely adopts phrases from W.B. Yeats' poetry within the text,overall I recommend it for anyone with an interest in ancient Ireland and pre-Christian Western Europe. The traditions of these ancestral people, though now mostly lost, came as a result of many more thousands of sun-cycles than our own culture and should be revered. Much more research needs to be undertaken. Books like Bending the Boyne help preserve this largely unused legacy fresh in our imaginations.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bending The Boyne: finger prints from the past, June 6, 2011
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Andrew Maynard (West Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland (Paperback)
Just read 'Bending The Boyne' what a great blend of fiction and current achaeological thinking. Also, some great concepts about the foundations for what became some of the later Irish mythologies. It alludes also to the manner in which the social views, outlooks and cosmologies of one culture are assimilated in part at least, by later cultures, collectively creating what today we would regard as a national identity. The story cleverly weaves these ideas together, and the characters are invariably metaphors for the concepts

So good to read something about ancient Ireland that does not resort to modern, usually misinformed, obsession with Celts!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Irish struggle against invaders - no, not those invaders..., April 18, 2011
This review is from: Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland (Paperback)
Dunn uses recent archeological evidence from the British Isles and the northern coast of Europe to imagine the transition period for Ireland from stone age to bronze age culture. Imagining real characters drawn from ancient, pre-Celtic myths and legends, the story is told of the relatively peaceful, mostly self-sufficient stone-age culture who built Newgrange and other astronomical observatories of this period as they struggle to maintain their way of life against increasing pressure (and invasion) from a bronze-age culture that puts a high value on trade, precious metals, and a warrior elite supported by wealthy traders.

The story is well conceived, and, as with all good historical fiction, provides an engaging path towards understanding how life may have been for people during this period. If you've read much Irish history (especially of the last 1000 years) you may get a strong sense of déjà vu, or, as they say on "Battlestar Galactica" - "All of this has happened before; all of this will happen again". There are strong parallels between the Starwatcher/Invader struggles and the Irish/English struggles, as a largely agrarian culture is nearly swamped by a strongly trade driven colonial power. The parallels are not limited to the Irish/English struggles, however, as this story has been played out all through human history, with striking similarities.

Dunn tells a good story, with engaging characters. I have to say that neither Boann nor Cian, the main protagonists, seem 'fully formed', and Elcmar, the main antagonist came across as 1 dimensional with strong hints of deeper drives/motivations never fully explored. Despite this, it's still a good story and, except for a bit of sluggishness late in the first half of the novel, it captures and keeps the reader's interest, becoming a bit of a page-turner at the end (and without resorting to long and/or multiple battle scenes). The Starwatchers are a peace-loving people, and Dunn writes a good story where these peaceful folks manage to hold their own, though not totally without compromise and cost. If you're looking for stories of warrior-heroes moving from battle to battle, this isn't the right book for you. But if you want to imagine how a peaceful, agrarian culture may have stood up against an invading force with greater technology and conquest in mind, you could hardly do better than "Bending the Boyne". Oh, and Dunn provides pronunciation help, character descriptions, and a brief glossary in the back, so don't let the `difficult' names get in the way.
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29 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good archeology, terrible editing., May 23, 2011
By 
This review is from: Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland (Paperback)
For a plot summary, you'll have to refer to another review. I thought my review was already running too long, so I cut the plot description out.

I was intrigued by this book when I saw it listed as an Early Reviewer offering at Librarything.com. I love historical fiction, and I enjoy archeology - but I know very little of the Stone Age/Bronze Age and even less about prehistoric Ireland. So this seemed to be a great way to learn a little through a pleasantly diverting novel.

By the time I reached the hundred page mark, I had determined that I would not be finishing this book. It was a very poor match for me and my personal tastes. These are the key reasons:

1. There wasn't adequate proofreading/editing, so odd sentences show up that don't make sense.
Take this line from the opening paragraph:
"A glut of vehicles, their noise, the fumes, assailed his broad shoulders." (1)
OK. Assail = attack, yes? There's an excessive supply of cars, and the noise and stench of them are attacking...a man's shoulders? What?? Unless the cars are attempting to run him over, there's no way this sentence can begin to make sense, since shoulders can neither smell nor hear. The following passage makes it clear, however, that the unnamed man isn't roadkill. Odd sentences like this appeared frequently enough to distract me from the story - never a good thing.
On a lesser note, there are quite a few grammatical errors scattered throughout. Semicolons connect fragments together; errant commas sprout randomly in the middle of sentences. In one form or another, there's a mistake on almost every page. Again, I found it incredibly distracting.

2. Formatting is inconsistent.
Italics are applied inconsistently for internal dialogue. It's clear that some internal thoughts are being had, but they aren't clearly demarcated. It seemed like a fifty-fifty split - half the time, characters' thoughts appear in italics. The rest of the time, nothing is done to differentiated thoughts from actions. It just seems...sloppy to me. Again, I feel like a proofreader should have caught this before the book went to print.

3. Dialogue is stiff and awkward.
I did like that there's a clear difference between how the Starwatchers and the Invaders speak, but the manner in which the Starwatchers talk does come across as very unnatural.

4. This last one is a very personal bias. I don't like it when ancient societies are portrayed as peaceful, earth-hugging hippie types who are at peace with the world and at one with each other, living in perfect harmony until the day a Big Bad Other comes along and runs them over with their evil technological ways. I just can't buy the myth of a peaceful society.
I'd say that it was the Maya civilization that ruined this for me. Back at the beginning of the 20th century, it was widely thought that the Maya were a quiet, peaceful civilization worshiping the stars and lead by stargazer-priests. One hundred years later, we know that isn't true at all; the Maya were warriors, practiced blood sacrifice, and had a complex government system. They weren't at all like the stargazer-priests.
The Minoans, too, were long thought to be a peaceful society of merchants, but again, archeology has revealed the presence of fortifications and weapons on Crete. I guess I don't have faith in humanity - I don't think we can exist without conflict, and a truly harmonious society is a fantasy. But because of this bias, I couldn't buy into the Starwatchers society created by J. S. Dunn.

As I said before, I don't know much about this time period in Ireland or the archeological evidence to support Dunn's creation, but the author provides a short but comprehensive summary in the final chapter of recent archeological discoveries pertaining to the monoliths and the Boyne river area. A bibliography of the author's research wasn't in the printed book, but it is available on his (or her?) website.

Even though I object to the peaceful Boyne natives (it's just too mythological for my tastes) I would have been able to keep reading had the sloppiness of the writing and editing not killed it for me. I know that small presses don't have the same resources as the big publishing houses, but I still expect a professional, polished product if I'm to devote several hours to reading it. It really makes a difference. As it was, I was skimming by the halfway point, and I skipped most of the final third of the book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating look at Bronze Age Ireland, August 14, 2011
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This review is from: Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland (Paperback)
A great book about a little-known era of Irish history. Both the story and characters are engaging, and I felt the research was quite sound, the detail amazing. My only quibble was the present-day opening chapter, which I felt was unnecessary: I would have preferred to move right into the past--and the story. But a great effort all around--looking forward to future books!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Mix of Archaelogical Fact and Fiction, August 2, 2011
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This review is from: Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland (Paperback)
The time is 2200 B.C. and marauders have invaded ancient Ireland in search of copper and gold. For astronomer Boann and the peace-loving Starwatchers, it is a dangerous time in which wits and bravery are needed to escape the long bronze knives and treachery of the invaders. Author J.S. Dunn combines archaeological fact with legend in this historical fiction about a time in history about which little is written.

Boann is more interested in astronomy than marriage, and when the Dagda agrees, she is elevated to the position of Starwatcher. Boann and her fellow astronomers watch at the mounds. It is Boann who discovers the first boatload of invaders, but it is her friend Sheela who is raped and murdered. In an effort to secure peace from the marauding strangers, Boann agrees to marry the invaders' champion Elcmar, but in spite of the marriage, Boann's Starwatchers struggle to survive.

Elcmar banishes Boann's lover, Cian, who goes to the Kerry copper mines and on to Iberia.

Boann escapes from the camp so that her son Aengus is born among her own people. Cian returns, and together he and Boann try to outmaneuver Elcmar.

Bending the Boyne is an ambitious novel, mixing fiction with archaeological fact in an exciting adventure. J.S. Dunn has penned a well researched and well written story, a compelling read that hints of a sequel.
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23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bending of the Boyne, July 5, 2011
By 
jonathan johnson (greenville, nc USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland (Paperback)
I usually read history books about Great Britain. However, my two favorite time periods, the early middle ages and neolithic, are very poorly recorded and therefore have very little written about them. This is how I began to read historical fiction. I chose this book due to its plot, reviews and the fact that is was $2.99 on Kindle.

I am reviewing this book as I feel it needs some reviews by people that are not professional reviewers or friends of the author as you will be able to tell shortly that I am not.

To start with, the way this story develops seems implausible. Standing by the sea, the main character sees the invaders' boat approaching. She sends her friend to alert the village to the danger. Then she goes to fetch a pot of water. It must be good water. Then she is attacked by an invader hiding in the bushes. She manages to break free and then outrun the invader, escaping to her village. All while carrying the pot of water. When running for my life, I would have dropped the pot, but that is just me.

Then we learn that her people are a very non-violent tribe. They are apparently ruled by a council of elders and have no chief, warriors or hunters. Also, no one seems to have sharpened a rock, tied it to a stick and called it a spear. So the ancient Irish were all bunny huggers. So when the invaders show up with their high tech bronze weaponry, what do they do when faced with such an easy target? They start a settlement and then crawl around in the dirt looking for copper. That's right, instead of vikings or conquistadors, these guys are more of an annoyance. I would rate them close to living next to a bunch of drunken frat boys or having your in-laws park their RV in your driveway. Sure they try to get too close to two of the girls, one of which gets stabbed (it happens), and they steal a cow every now and then, but come on. The violence is PG rated at best.

I was willing to overlook all of this since it is the authors story and she can make it as unbelievable as she wants. However, what really annoys me is the lack of descriptions about everything. Usually, after a few chapters of a book, I feel like I am standing among the characters, seeing exactly what they see. In this book, I feel like I couldn't pick any of the characters out of a line-up and have no idea what the main village looks like. I mean, is the village in trees, in a meadow, on a hill. I guess it is near the river Boyne, but how close. And how many people live there. I am guessing it is between 10 and 10,000.

Also, events that seem very important to me seem to fly by with just a few lines of mention. When the chief invader wants to marry the main character and the main character says yes for fear of what might happen if she doesn't, the book goes into good detail about the ceremony. Then the main invader goes on a sea voyage a month later and there is no mention about how the marriage is going. Did he turn out to be a nice guy, is he a brute, does the main character even like him? I haven't the foggiest.

I will give the book a star for the story (but not for storytelling) and one for talking about copper smelting.

You should read Bernard Cornwell for historical fiction or this if you would like a pre-historic Lifetime movie.

While it may be unfair for me to review this book as I am only 1/3 of the way through it, I had to get this off my chest. I will try to force my way to the end and update my review at that point.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bending the Boyne, August 11, 2011
This review is from: Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland (Paperback)
Bending the Boyne is one of those books that takes readers to another time and place, that being 2200 BCE at the dawning of the Bronze Age in Europe and most specifically in Ireland. It is obvious that author J.S. Dunn has done an enormous amount of research to make this the success that it is. Winning the Next Generation Indie Book Award for Historical Fiction 2011 is proof of that. The fact that the book has resource pages is very helpful, as is the website information. It helped to make the book come more alive and understandable for me since I do not have a lot of background knowledge regarding Ireland or this time period.

Being taken back in time to look into and experience the lives of people from various backgrounds makes us ponder as to how societies dealt with one another. I must admit that there were several times when the actions of the main character didn't quite make sense to me, or it seemed she allowed things to happen "too easily." I wanted more details from the author. But in continuing my reading, I was drawn in by the characters and learning about the motivations of different people and how the "Invaders" (who come looking for gold) affected the lives of the "Starwatchers" (a peaceful agrarian group) who first inhabited the island. It is very interesting to see how J.S. Dunn weaved archaeological facts into this story, as well as astronomy. Overall, it has a lot to offer and is a great book to take readers to "another place." Books that can keep you turning pages and feeling like you are right there in the action are five star books--and Bending the Boyne would be right there in that category.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bogged down in minute details and to many characters, June 24, 2012
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I wanted to like this book. I enjoyed the prologue and the first half of Part One which I thought set up a good beginning for the book. After that it just bogged down with to much description and to many characters. After a few more pages, I really didn't care about the main characters which at that time I was not sure who they would eventually be. Not caring about them makes it really hard to continue to read the book. Sorry I purchased this book.
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Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland
Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland by J. S. Dunn (Paperback - March 17, 2011)
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