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Craobh (A New Druids Series Book 2) Kindle Edition
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Plot/Characters: The time is one of heavily contentious struggles among the church elite as well as a period when members of the Druid Society were being shunned as demons by all and hunted down and eliminated by a particularly vicious sect of the Church of the New Order. The story line follows two main threads that ultimately meet to form a finale preparing for the third book in the series. The first, and main thread follows the somewhat serendipitous journey of Will Arbor, a teen age orphan who has special powers usually belonging to a Druid of much advanced age and learning, probably because of inheritance/learning from his mother, a Druid High Priestess. His mother and father were killed when, during an attempt on the Archbishop’s life, his mother had used her powers to save his father who had been an officer of the army assigned to protect the Archbishop. She immediately was recognized as a member of the group, labeled a ‘demon’ and killed. His father, as an associate was also murdered. The boy escaped and begins his journey where he encounters all sorts of fantastic occult/fantasy experiences as well as those of a more mundane world. The second thread follows General Brent Bairstow whose brother Frederick, Knight General of the Army of the Realm, has managed to provide him with a couple of Captains whom he can trust on his present assignment. The assignment being to find and return to the sovereign city a chest of gold coin conspiratorially removed from the central coffers. They both suspected that he had been set up to fail. This part of the story proceeds with the violent action anticipated. A wealth of other characters are involved to greater or lesser extent.
Discussion: The author has provided a story and in a manner that has left this reviewer with a great deal of ambivalence. Overall it is well written and parts of the tale are fascinating in detail; e.g. explanation of the Druid (Draoi) hierarchal structure from the lowest Druilleog (leaf) through Craobh (branch) and Stoc (Trunk) to Framhaigh (roots) and finally Cill Darae (priest or elevated Druid). Similarly some of the philosophical discussion; e.g. the need for harmony instead of balance because the later may require the loss of too much good to equate the two where the former accepts the bad and good and discovers a means for them to co-exist; vision is seeing, but sense is seeing by interpretation of emotions; the longer you carry a burden, the heavier it becomes. Lay it down for a while. Conversely much of the rest of the story is for the reader who enjoys tales of the Occult and an abundance of clairvoyance, visions and mysticism. And these individuals will enjoy immensely. Regrettably and perhaps solely for this reader, further editing would have greatly enhanced the story's enjoyment.
Conclusion: A book that this reader appreciated what the author has provided but one whose enjoyment could have been enhanced.
Donald's subject matter for this series of books is the Druids, and for those who need memory jogging the following is offered: A druid was a member of the educated, professional class among the Celtic peoples of Gaul, Britain, Ireland, and possibly elsewhere during the Iron Age. The druid class included law-speakers, poets and doctors, among other learned professions, although the best known among the druids were the religious leaders. Very little is known about the ancient druids. They left no written accounts of themselves, and the only evidence is a few descriptions left by Greek, Roman, and various scattered authors and artists, as well as stories created by later medieval Irish writers. While archaeological evidence has been uncovered pertaining to the religious practices of the Iron Age people, "not one single artifact or image has been unearthed that can undoubtedly be connected with the ancient Druids." Various recurring themes emerge in a number of the Greco-Roman accounts of the druids, including that they performed animal and even human sacrifice, believed in a form of reincarnation, and held a high position in Gaulish society. Next to nothing is known for certain about their cultic practice, except for the ritual of oak and mistletoe, their doctrine of the immortality of the soul and reincarnation or metempsychosis - the souls of men are immortal, and that after a fixed number of years they will enter into another body.
What Donald has created in this new novel is a story of indeterminate time in which he offers his own view of the Druids, particularly in the character of on Will Arbor. He does offer a very fine (and lengthy) Epilogue to his DUILLEOG, and while that fleshes out the story for the reader who is encountering this series for the first time, that is helpful. But in his synopsis he clarifies and states, `Will Arbor returns to realm of Belkin and the powers of the draoi. Will Arbor, the last of the druids, returns to his journey to locate and discover answers in the Draoi Manuscript. Will is thrown into the machinations of the Sect of the Church of the New Order, and must fight to survive against powers that surpass his own. The Lord Protector puts into motion events that will pit those who would protect the realm against those that would seize control over the minds and bodies of its citizens. Will Arbor will find unexpected allies as he struggles to understand the balance of magyc and where he fits into Gaea's plans. Return to Turgany County and the realm of Belkin. A quiet land quickly descending into chaos and turmoil.’
Will Arbor is a fascinating character Donald has created and on that obviously will maintain the readers' interest through this series of very strange details about the druids. In this second volume of the series we are serviced with more background history, allowing the reader to understand, place, time, and characterizations. This is turning into a very successful series! Grady Harp, June 15