cover image Finn Mac Cool

Finn Mac Cool

Morgan Llywelyn. Forge, $23.95 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85476-8

Too many characters with too many names (most given in Gaelic, in their Anglicized form and with descriptive adjectives) involved in too many actions subvert Llywelyn's retelling of an important Irish legend. Finn MacCool is a warrior/poet, a leader of the Fianna , the first Irish army, in third-century Ireland. Separated from his parents after a battle with their ancient enemies, the clan of Morna, Finn is brought up in primitive circumstances. After learning of his heritage, he determines to become the strongest man in Ireland so that he will never have to run away from anything again. His early allegiance to Cormac MacAirt, the high king, alters with the ascension of MacAirt's son, Cairbre, who favors Finn's old enemies, the clan of Morna. In middle age, Finn recruits the legendary Diarmait, who--aided by Finn's son, Oisin--reestablishes their hold on the country. A romantic triangle ensues, involving Finn, Diarmait and Grania, daughter of Cormac MacAirt. This is a morality play of the highest order, with trust and sincerity winning out over more basic instincts. Llywelyn, whose The Lion of Ireland was said to be a favorite of Ronald Reagan, has produced a plodding narrative that does not rise above its mythic/historical details. $100,000 ad/promo; author tour. (Mar.)