Book review

The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O'Shea (1985)

Irish magic is strong stuff - and this book is full of it. You'll find some ancient characters turn up to play their part and you might recognise them or you might not, but either way it won't spoil your enjoyment of the story.

Anyway Pidge doesn't recognise any of the powerful characters to begin with, and it's his story. He wanders into a second hand book shop in Galway and finds a bundle of old papers in the back room. Straight away Pidge feels that he must have them at any price, although later, when you read this story, you might think that the papers find Pidge and make him take them away with him.

He takes the papers back home, but even before he gets there strange events are happening all around him. It's as if he is drawing all things magical to him. And it isn't all lovely happy magic either. He meets a stranger on the road:

'I'm to tell you to watch out,' he said, 'there's danger at the crossroads.'
'At the crossroads up ahead? What kind of danger?'
'Too soon to say - but danger there is.'
Pidge could think of only one possible danger.
'You can't mean traffic, it's so quiet round here?'
'I can't mean traffic, young human sir - but you are to use the eye of clarity when you get to that spot. There's deluderings at the crossroads, such as would confound Geography and Cartography; such as would make Pandora's Box into a tuppeny lucky bag,' the old angler said earnestly, and added: 'Bad work and not many knowing it; quiet as water under the ground. You be careful, young mortal sir, as there's more than one kind of angling and you could be sniggled in a flash! There's lures and lures. That's my message!'

Now who do you suppose would want to sniggle Pidge and his papers?

There's a great and evil queen in Irish faery. She's called the Morrigan. She takes three forms. And in subtle guise - well, subtle enough - she moves in to the glasshouse belonging to Pidge's neighbour. Her hounds are there too to carry out her bidding and to do her tracking.

She's after Olc-Glas, an evil snake, which Pidge has unwittingly brought home trapped within the papers of his bundle. If she can capture Olc-Glas her powers will increase enormously.

Who will help Pidge escape the Morrigan and her hounds? Well, the Dagda will for a start. He is the power for all things good, and his messengers are all true creatures. But although Pidge is ready and willing to do what he can to defy the wishes of the Morrigan, it isn't an easy task...

See what you think. The magic is wild and strong. And the hounds don't give up easily. How could they when the Morrigan is there right behind them?

What can I read next?

If you enjoy wild magic, you might like to look at The Keys to the Kingdom sequence by Garth Nix:

Or this extraordinary story by Cornelia Funke:

Or you could have a look at this one by Diana Wynne Jones:

If Irish magic really interests you, take a look at these short stories by Carlo Gebler:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

The Hounds of the Morrigan features in these lists: