on 28 February 2005
While this retelling is written primarily for younger readers it is anything but childish. The sex and bloody mayhem of the source material, central to the explanations of the actions of the protagonists, remains. Consequently, even though the stories are about "superheroes", these heroes remain, in very many ways, recognisably human, driven by deeply human motives of honour, jealousy, love, lust, greed and envy. Often the most heroic can be petty and the most venal given to acts of great courage.
Sutcliff clearly took the time to ensure that the stories were properly rooted in the geography of the North of Ireland and the West of Scotland, something that adds to the pleasure of the reading. A classic that will bear reading and re-reading again.
Reading this book at about 12 years old started a lifelong interest in Celtic literature and oral literature generally, and in Ireland. It is one of the most romantic stories ever told, yet by no means "soppy". All the tales of the Ulster Cycle are retold to make a complete narrative, starting with the the birth and boyhood of Cuchulain, and finishing with his heroic death.
While making the stories suitable for older children and young adolescents, Sutcliff keeps all the power of the original; do not be fooled, there is a lot of violence and surprising amount of sex in these pages, albeit handled with the utmost restraint and without any horror or explicitness.
The illustrations by Victor Ambrus (who you may be familiar with from Time Team) are amongst the best he has ever done and are worth buying the book for alone. Adult readers will also find this a very enjoyable read.
on 17 December 2013
Bought this because I found The Tain unbelievably tedious. I've got an English degree and love e.g. Beowulf, Gawain and the Green Knight, Piers Plowman etc, but The Tain left me cold. This was also the unanimous view of my book group. This does a good job of turning The Tain into something one might begin to appreciate as literature on its own merits. It is certainly not just for teenagers.