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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
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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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