"Niamh of the Golden Hair" is just one of those novels where I really wanted to give a better score. Hell, it deserves a better score. The story is flowing and occasionally brilliantly beautiful, the main characters are engaging, and there is just enough mystery and magic to keep the reader guessing. Unfortunately, this a novel that just cannot fully escape some pretty large flaws, most of which are strangely completely fixable.
First, the good. The writing is beautiful. It flows in a way that harkens to the style of the old, which fits perfectly with the tone of the tale. This is not your average sword/fantasy novel, full of dashing young heroes and huge stakes. In many ways, it's better than that. It takes its time when needed, but never does it feel like it's stretching the plot on purpose. In fact, there are many points in the novel where though not much is happening plotwise the words themselves feel fast and efficient, lingering just long enough in the reader's mind to satisfy without overstaying its welcome. Likewise, the main characters are written very well. They are three dimensional characters who learn and change as time goes on, and though they definitely do not face the same problems we do, one can't help but relate to them.
Unfortunately, this level of skill Michele displays just make the mistakes all the more glaring. There is the occasional grammatical error that sometimes stands jarringly out of place, if only because the rest of the surrounding sentences are crafted so perfectly. More troubling are a couple of minor continuity errors that can throw off the reader if he/she is not paying attention. Also, while the main characters are fully developed, some of the minor characters suffer from shaky characterization. Finally, there were just some very minor plot points that felt unnecessary or undeveloped.
In the end, though there were some mistakes that could not be glanced over, I found myself enjoying the adventure Michele spins in her novel. What I believe is a testament to her skill as a writer is that it wasn't until after I had finished the novel that I learned it was actually a sequel to another book. Nowhere as I was reading did I feel that I was missing information. I think that with a little more polish, Michele could begin to craft true masterpieces, and I'm eager to see what else she has to offer.