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Book Cover Image: Bending the Boyne by J. S. DunnTitle: Bending the Boyne
Author: J. S. Dunn
ISBN: 9780983155416
No. of Pages: 322
Genre: Historical Fiction

“Circa 2200 BCE: Changes rocking the Continent reach Eire with the dawning Bronze Age. Well before any Celts, marauders invade the island seeking copper and gold. The young astronomer Boann and the enigmatic Cian need all their wits and courage to save their people and their great Boyne mounds, when long bronze knives challenge the peaceful native starwatchers. Banished to far coasts, Cian discovers how to outwit the invaders at their own game. Tensions on Eire between new and old cultures and between Boann, Elcmar, and her son Aengus, ultimately explode. What emerges from the rubble of battle are the legends of Ireland’s beginnings in a totally new light.”

Thoughts: In 2000 BCE, the world was rapidly changing. On a remote island near the North Sea, an entire culture of astronomers, or Starwatchers as they call themselves, will have their entire lifestyle threatened by a group of invaders from across the big seas. These invaders, in their searches for copper, tin, and gold, bring with them foreign ideas such as land ownership, power struggles, and violence. As the two cultures fight for control of Ireland, two people attempt to do everything in their power to bring peace and cooperation between the two societies. Bending the Boyne is their story.

Bending the Boyne is a great reminder of what societies can learn from each other when they are not too busy trying to enslave or destroy each other. It brings to mind what conquered societies must have felt about the confusing strangers who refuse to understand their ways and who insist that their foreign ways are better than anything previously established in the area. The use of fear tactics, foreign instruments, and in this case long knives made of metal, horses, and the like were powerful weapons against a peaceful society. Dunn has an amazing ability to create sympathy for the Starwatchers as they struggle to maintain their beliefs and rituals against a constantly changing world.

The details are where Bending the Boyne shines brightest. The descriptions of smelting, copper mining, ocean travel, and other aspects of this ancient era are extremely realistic. A reader experiences Cian’s wonder at the advancement he sees on his travels, while simultaneously empathizing with Boann’s confusion at the harshness and ignorance of her adopted people. As for the Invaders, one can all too easily understand their ruthlessness as they are driven to find more copper or gold in an effort to gain more riches. This era comes to life under Dunn’s careful research and comprehensive descriptions.

While one has no doubt that Dunn was extremely thorough in his research and in his descriptive passages, the very nature of some of the rituals and celestial movements create certain verbose and difficult-to-understand scenes. A reader would be advised to have a star chart handy when reading to ensure that s/he understands exactly which stars and their movements are being discussed at any point in time. Thankfully, these descriptions do not detract from the overall story too much, but understanding them is vital to understanding the crux of the clash between the Starwatchers and the Invaders.

Bending the Boyne is an absolute fascinating look at Bronze Age Ireland. The cultural clashes that occur between the natives and the Invaders set the tone for later invasions both on Ireland and throughout the world over the years. Dunn’s research is meticulous and in such detail that the reader does not need to visit the sacred sites in order to feel completely awed by the knowledge garnered by the Starwatchers and all of humanity at such a primitive time. In fact, one can go on Dunn’s website and see images of the actual artifacts used by Boann, Cian, and the rest of the cast of characters. This realism built into the descriptions makes this one story that is less fiction and more historical. In spite of some of clunky passages, Bending the Boyne is a captivating picture of a bygone era about a culture that has long been considered mysterious and which has provided some of the more memorable artifacts on the Emerald Isle. Dunn has successfully created a book that allows readers to step back in time to experience the Bronze Age for themselves.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Christina Montero from Seriously Good Books for my review copy!


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