Of Blood and Honey (Fey and the Fallen) Paperback – 25 Jan 2011
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About the Author
Stina Leicht is a science fiction and fantasy writer living in central Texas. Her second novel, "And Blue Skies from Pain", was on the Locus Recommended Reading list for 2012. She was a Campbell Award finalist in 2013 and in 2012. In 2012 she was also shortlisted for the Crawford Award. When she was small Stina wanted to grow up to be like Vincent Price.
Top Customer Reviews
I believe the ideas of 2 simultaneous wars ("The Troubles" and a supernatural one "The Fey and The Fallen") and of the Roman Catholic Church as an actor i nthe supernatural war are original too (at least for values of original).
There are a few details that jar slightly, but they don't affect the story.
Of Blood and Honey is a raw, bitter and bloodthirsty book. There is an undercurrent of brutal honesty which is hard to swallow, mostly because it talks openly about Northern Ireland and what it had to go through in the 1970s.
On the other hand it has an early urban fantasy feel, so if you liked War for The Oaks you most assuredly will enjoy this book as well.
The book follows the life and tribulations of young Irish guy, Liam. He is half-phouka and doesn't know about it as his human mother keeps his heritage secret from anyone. Liam is abused and beaten up and gets into trouble all the time while your heart just bleeds for the poor boy.
There are few factors you can blame for his misfortune: horrible prosecution of Irish on their own soil by British soldiers; the camps and inhuman conditions guys endure there; IRA secret war; secret police's intrigues... but mostly it's the hidden war between The Fey and The Fallen - demons that Catholicism brought to Ireland and which Fey unsuccessfully try to drive off their land, that Liam unwillingly gets caught in because The Fallen try to use him to hurt his father.
Throw in the mold a young and tumultuous love, the rage that overcomes Liam and makes him do some horrible things to the people that abuse him, a secret Order of Catholic priests who don't know the difference between demons and fae and kill everyone they can get their hands on.... and it's an awful, twisted, torturous mess of a life in an insanely intense book.
As I said, Of Blood and Honey is an old-fashioned, long urban fantasy that stubbornly trudges through the injustices of Liam's life and makes us see and feel deeply the suffering of the whole Irish nation and the spirit of its people.
Strong, beautiful and very harsh. Recommended.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I picked up this book with quite a bit of trepidation. I've done a lot of reading on Northern Irish politics over the years, and I didn't want to see the Troubles treated as some sort of flashy backdrop to a shallow and simpleminded fantasy plot. I needn't have worried. Ms. Leicht interweaves the novel's fantasy elements seamlessly into a depiction of time and place that feels absolutely real. Now, I'm not Irish, and I imagine there are things that one could quibble with, but the author's instincts and sympathies are sound and she certainly gets the bigger picture right. The situation is complex and ugly and frequently impossible, and Ms. Leicht has taken all of that on and used it to create an understated masterpiece. On top of all that, her characters are real people, nuanced, and if they don't break your heart from time to time you're not paying attention.
It's clear that Ms. Leicht is planning on at least one sequel to this book, as there are questions left unanswered at the end regarding Liam's fate as well as the strategy and intentions of the Fallen. This is excellent news. I can't recommend this novel highly enough, really, and I'm looking forward to the next volume with a level of anticipation I haven't felt for a book in years.
This story does in fact revisit the "troubles" of Ireland in the 1970's in which it is set. It also explains much of the inner workings of those troubles. So many times people think the problems were all religious based. Catholics vs Protestants but there was much more to it. In Ireland's case while much of it goes back to King Henry and the founding of the Church of England. Those who did not convert to the new church and denounce the Pope were stripped of their lands, wealth and power. Most of the Irish did not convert. The "troubles" are not only about self-rule and religion they are about distribution of wealth, jobs and opportunity.
Lian, a poor Catholic boy comes of age in Northern Ireland. In a time of bombings, snipers and occupation by the British Army. Step-fathered by a man who resents him, kept without knowledge of who is biological father was he is rumoured to be the son of a Protestant. His mother, Kathleen refuses to discuss his father or even tell him if his father is still alive.
Standing on the sidelines of a peace march which turns ugly Lian is wrongly charged with incitement and throwing rocks and is sent to one of the most infamous prisons of the time. Only 15 he must deal with adult brutality from both the prison guards and his fellow prisoners. This begins his downfall into a world of political prisoners, clandestine operations and IRA association.
But Lian is slightly different and he is aware that something is unusual about him. He is not the only one who knows his secrets. Unbeknown to him, both his mother and the priest he trusts are hiding secrets. Secrets about him, about his father and about a world living within our own that is unknown to most. Into the backdrop of political terror Lian must now navigate a world he has not been prepared for.
Ms. Leicht has created a world of both human and Fey interacting with each other in ways the humans are unaware of. The Fey world she creates is as complex and well written as the human world we are accustomed to. Brought to life we become invested in both worlds and are caught up in the interaction of the two.
This is a very well written quickly paced novel with good, well developed characters who cross two worlds. The story is believable and interesting. Well edited and tight without being stilted. I am looking forward to reading the next offering in this well crafted story.
Karen Bryant Doering
The backstory of the novel is by all means an interesting one. A fantasy tale set in the rough 1970s of Ireland. The grounding of true political factions and wars presents an interesting scene for a modern-day fairy tale.
I have had a hard time pinning down why this novel didn't 'click' for me as it did some of the other reviewers. The writer did a great job setting up what could have been an amazing story but seemed to feel too cautious to tap into the true underpinnings of their own characters. It is hard to write examples without giving away some of the plot but one example of the shallow nature of the characters is the protagonist's father. There is so much unsaid about his background, his personality, his personal stake in the overall situation, that instead of seeming mysterious he comes across as undefined.
This book is not for everyone. But maybe it's something you'll enjoy.
I did that for several reasons. One, the book is written by a friend of mine. Can I truly be objective as I review the book? Will I pull punches when it comes to the things I didn't like? Two, the book isn't the kind of thing I normally read. I'm a logical science fiction kind of guy, and while a lot of people lump fantasy and sci-fi together, I have trouble with the more spiritual world of fantasy. It's even worse when authors rely on the standard fantasy tropes and settings or walk down the path of "it's magic, anything can happen!"
Here's the best thing I can say about this novel: Before I'd finished the first five pages, I'd forgotten that I was reading a friend's book that I was kind of, sort of, obligated to read. By the end of the first chapter, I didn't care that there were fantasy elements in the book, because it wasn't really a fantasy book. I simply wanted to finish the book as quickly as I could because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I ended up staying up late to read it non-stop from cover to cover.
That never happens for me in this genre, not even with my other favorite, The Rook.
Really, this is a gritty tale about Ireland and The Troubles and the people caught in the path of that awful time. It just happens to have a little bit of magic in it and some fairies -- though not the kind you normally think of when you hear that word. They're just as dark and gritty and nasty as the book they populate.
Oh yeah, I should probably warn you ahead of time, it's not really what you'd call a pleasant read. A lot of really awful things happen to the characters in these books and there's not really a "Happily Ever After". It's a nasty world they live in, and Stina pulls no punches in describing it.
And what a world! It's obvious she did her homework in writing it, the things I do know about ring absolutely true, and from what I've read of The Troubles since then, it appears about as accurate as you can expect. Remember, stories of fiction are really about the story, they're not documentaries. Not that I can find any discrepancies, but I'm not Irish and I didn't live through the period in question.
My only complaint is that I never felt like I really understood or got to know The Redcap. The most interesting villains are those that have motivation and reason behind their actions instead of acting evil just for the sake of being evil. Of course, that's kind of what a redcap is, so being true to folklore means that I'm not going to get the kind of villain I wanted. Still, it would have been nice to have a little more backstory on him so that we could better understand the gambit he was trying to play.
Still, this is a book that got the author nominated twice for a Campbell award, which is a pretty high praise indeed. It may have faults, but I have trouble finding them.