GRANIA: She-King of the Irish Seas by Morgan Llywelyn

GRANIA: She-King of the Irish Seas

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After reaching centuries back into Irish history and legend for the subjects of her last three novels (Bard, 1984; The Horse Goddess, 1982; and The Lion Of Ireland, 1979), the 16th-century setting Llywelyn has chosen for her latest strikes a reader as downright modern by comparison and yields up a historical less marred by the anachronisms noticed in earlier works. Never doubt, though, that Ireland is still this writer's favorite locale or that her characters are sons of Erin through and through--actually, in this case, daughters, since Grania delivers up the life and adventures of one Grace O'Malley, or Grace the Bald, so dubbed after she chopped off her locks and ran away to sea as a teen-ager. She is (an apparently really was) the daughter of Dubhdara, the O'Malley chieftain whose domain included parts of Ireland's rugged west coast. After she gets her sea legs, several boats from her father, and her freedom when her battle-crazy husband, Donal O'Flaherty, bites the dust, she becomes a ferocious lady-pirate plying the waters around Erin, enraging the Brits, who (under Elizabeth I) are having trouble controlling the Irish and sowing the seeds of Protestantism--though the Irish clans like to fight one another so much that they tend to make themselves prey to the English under governors like Sir Philip Sydney--the poet, who in this novel has a one-night stand with Grania, and from then on a tender spot in his lyrical heart for things Irish. Grania sleeps with many others, too, though in her twilight years she settles down with her loyal lieutenant Tigernan. And after a lifetime of snapping at their heels, Grania makes a separate peace with the Brits, even visiting Elizabeth (formerly her nemesis) in London. Tremendously overwritten, sometimes too busy to easily follow, suffering primarily from the fact that Grania's life seems to have been chaotic and not always purposeful, this novel manages nevertheless to engage with its vigorous characters--some of the supporting roles are as interesting as the leads--and Irish lore that's by now Llywelyn's trademark.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1986
ISBN: 0765318083
Publisher: Crown