Red Branch

Red Branch - Morgan Llywelyn

A friend lent this book to me after I had finished the latest book in Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle. He thought that it would fit nicely with the story behind the legend theme, and it definitely is in the same vein. Red Branch, however, has a very different feel in other ways and is much more classic ancient story.

Title: Red Branch
Author: Morgan Llyweln
Pages: ~500 (paperback)
Setting: Ancient/mythical northern Ireland, magic and magical people and gods all exist, but for the most part that is in the background
Premise: Setanta (who later goes by Cuchulain) is a warrior from Irish myths and this is the story of the boy who becomes a man who becomes a legend. He has a bit of magic in his blood and some parent issues, but a goddess (not exactly the one that I would want around) takes him under her wing (haha, pun) and follows him as he becomes the legend that has been remembered as one of the oldest stories in existence.

Strengths:

  • A very realistic portrayal of the main character with all the strengths and weaknesses that a well-rounded character has. 
  • Beautiful writing and style
  • Well rounded “villains” and secondary characters as well
  • Deliciously ambiguous and human villains, there really aren’t even villains here since we get to know the “bad guys” hearts and motives as well
  • Who doesn’t love guy love between friends?
  • I think that the legend and myths are followed fairly accurately, though I haven’t researched this part

Weaknesses:

  • Compared to the fast pace of modern fiction, the book does feel a bit slow and windy at times
  • This can be considered and strength or weakness depending on who you are, but the end of the book has a ton of tear-jerking moments
  • Women have a rather secondary role in the culture, which can be a bit frustrating if you want a strong female character (who isn’t a crazy death goddess)
  • There isn’t really an over-arching plot besides the story of Cuchulain’s life (which works for me, but adds to the windy nature)

Summary: I really enjoyed this book, though I think it’s important to understand going into it that it is a slower pace. It is honestly rather relaxing for most of the story (until the crying parts) and a nice story, though it is definitely not a page-turner and you could get bored if you were trying to read it on a plane or something equally distracting. I recommend this as a going-to-sleep book.

Source: http://www.onstarshipsanddragonwings.com/2011/08/12/redbranch