This review is part of the Discover Australian Fantasy feature, running during July on The Oaken Bookcase. You can visit the Aussie Fantasy page for more information and to enter the giveaway while you’re here!
Since the Day of Reckoning witches and magic have been outlawed on Eileanan. The great towers, once centres of learning, are now abandoned ruins. The penalty for practising witchcraft is death.
In a hidden valley deep in the mountains, in the shadow of the peak of Dragonclaw, Isabeau the foundling grows to womanhood in the care of Meghan, an old wood witch. But Isabeau’s destiny lies outside the valley: she must set out on a perilous quest carrying the last hope of the persecuted witches.
Meanwhile the sea-dwelling Fairgean stir, children vanish in the night, and Isabeau’s guardian climbs Dragonclaw to seek guidance from the most ancient and dangerous wisdom in the land…
Series: The Witches of Eileanan #1 of 6
Genre: High Fantasy
Published: Arrow (Random House Australia), 1997
Written in the grand tradition of Epic Fantasy, Dragonclaw is the first in Kate Forsyth’s series about the Witches of Eileanan.
Witchcraft has been outlawed for sixteen years now, and the new Queen, or Banrigh, has decreed that all magical creatures be killed or captured. Many of the original Coven of Witches died at the time of the Day of Reckoning but there are a few remaining, stoking up the fires of resistance and judging when the time is right to reclaim what was lost to them.
Dragonclaw starts with what I like to call the “Stay awhile and listen” beginning. This consists of a character (usually old), telling the story of the history of the world to another character. In some books it creates a huge information dump right at the start of the book and bogs it down a bit, but in Dragonclaw it’s gives a good run-down on some of what’s going on.
This book took me quite a while to get through, partly because I was quite busy during the last week, but also because it’s just so complex! There are dozens of characters each with their own motives and plans, at least three of which are separate “baddies”. The main characters split up and go off to follow their own quest for a few chapters, then we jump back to a different tale that is going on at the same time. The individual stories tie together amazingly well, so we don’t miss out on any of the action, but the jumping back and forth can get a little confusing.
Another aspect that I found a little hard to get used to was the fact that all the characters “speak wi’ a wee bit o’ a Scottish accent, which is no’ a problem once ye get used to it”, but it takes a while to get your brain in gear.
The countries that make up Eileanan and the uile-bheistean that live there are unique and described in great detail. The city of Lucescere in particular, situated between two enormous waterfalls, sounds so beautiful! I’m looking forward to continuing with this series to get back to this world and its dramas.
If you’re looking to be swept away into a beautiful, magical world, full of danger and with a Celt-inspired mythos, The Witches of Eileanan is for you!
Warnings: Some sexual suggestion, torture.
The Witches of Eileanan
- The Pool of Two Moons
- The Cursed Towers
- The Forbidden Land
- The Skull of the World
- The Fathomless Caves
Her books for adults include Bitter Greens, a retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale, and the bestselling fantasy series Witches of Eileanan and Rhiannon’s Ride. Her books for children include The Gypsy Crown, The Puzzle Ring, and The Starkin Crown.
Kate is currently studying a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology. She lives by the sea in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, three children, a rambunctious Rhodesian Ridgeback, a bad-tempered black cat, and many thousands of books.