Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Swan Maiden by Jules Watson

Today I was supposed to be reviewing The Raven Queen by Jules Watson as part of a blog tour for that book, but due to the vagaries of the postal system, I haven't actually received the book yet. That left me scratching my head wondering what I should post instead. A quick look at all the half written reviews I have sitting in draft (and yes, there are a lot of them) revealed that I had a review of Jules Watson's previous book that was oh so close to finished, and so I have done the tidying up of what I had written previously and I am posting that instead. I don't know why I didn't finish the review earlier, especially seeing it was one of the few books I rated as 5/5 reads in the year I read it.

It was fair to say though that I already knew I was a fan of Jules Watson after reading her Dalriaida trilogy, which is set in Roman Britain, and features a warrior princess, battles against the Roman invaders, a handsome Irish prince and much more. I have reviewed all three of the books in the trilogy. The first is The White Mare, the second book was called The Dawn Stag and the third book in the trilogy was published in some places as The Boar Stone with an alternative title of Song of the North. Click on the links to read my reviews of the trilogy.

Jules Watson is an Australia author who had been living in Scotland, but has now moved to the US. For more information about Jules, check out this interview we did with her at Historical Tapestry, and also at other stops around her blog tour for The Raven Queen. You can find all the stops here.

I will definitely be reading and reviewing The Raven Queen as soon as I can.

In this lush, romantic retelling of one of the most enduring Irish legends, acclaimed Celtic historical author Jules Watson reignites the tale of Deirdre—the Irish Helen of Troy—in a story that is at once magical, beautiful, and tragic.

She was born with a blessing and a curse: that she would grow into a woman of extraordinary beauty—and bring ruin to the kingdom of Ulster and its ruler, the wily Conor. Ignoring the pleadings of his druid to expel the infant, King Conor secrets the girl child with a poor couple in his province, where no man can covet her. There, under the tutelage of a shamaness, Deirdre comes of age in nature and magic…. And in the season of her awakening, the king is inexorably drawn to her impossible beauty.

But for Deirdre, her fate as a man’s possession is worse than death. And soon the green-eyed girl, at home in waterfall and woods, finds herself at the side of three rebellious young warriors. Among them is the handsome Naisi. His heart charged with bitterness toward the aging king, and growing in love for the defiant girl, Naisi will lead Deirdre far from Ulster—and into a war of wits, swords, and spirit that will take a lifetime to wage.

Brimming with life and its lusts, here is a soaring tale of enchantment and eternal passions—and of a woman who became legend.

I have read and enjoyed Jules Watson's Dalriada trilogy,and so was very much looking forward to reading this book when it came out and I haven't been disappointed!

A retelling of the Celtic tale of Deidre, this tells the story of a young woman who has been separate from society, being specifically raised to be the wife of a king (Conor) and with a strong mystical focus, but she has other ideas and so flees with the assistance and protection of rebel warriors Naisi and his two brothers. As the group struggle to find their place in the world, they can't seem to escape what seems to be their fate especially when it seems it is only a matter of time before Conor finds them.

Where Deidre was not interested at all in Conor, she finds herself attracted to Naisi. I thought the build up in the tension between Deidre and Naisi was great and there was definitely a lot of chemistry between the two of them. The balance between the relationship, the various mystical elements and the story was really well done. These mystical elements were a feature of Watson's earlier books, and I hope that this is something that she continues to explore in her next books.

There are a few signs that make it obvious to me when I am really enjoying a book apart from the feelings it invokes in me as I am reading it. One is when I break my no reading books at lunch time at work, and another is when I am prompted to Google things like locations, or as it was with this book, to find out more about the Irish myths about Deidre which this novel was based on, and both of these things happened with this book,

I was completely immersed in the world that Watson has created, and with the characters. There were a couple of times maybe where the book dragged a little, but by the end of the book I closed the book with a huge sigh of satisfaction.

Cross posted at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader


  1. I loved reading this one last year too. Thanks for the reminder that the next one is going to be available soon (if it isn't already).

  2. I love the cover of this book and can't wait to read it.

  3. You'll find it useful to have read "Swan Maiden" first, as Deirdre's story is also part of Maeve's story. "Raven Queen" is not a sequel, but rather, the two stories intertwine at various points. I though "Swan Maiden" an absolutely luminous interpretation of the tale of Deirdre of the Sorrows.