Gyrfalcon

As soon as I picked up this book I was curious. The story of a young boy, a falcon, a mystical trip back in time to ancient Ireland. How would it all fit together and would it add anything new to the already well-worn path of the Irish historical fantasy novel? I was pleasantly surprised. While travelling back in time to the world of Finn and the Fianna has been done before in several Irish children’s books, there is something magical and earthy about the way that ancient Ireland is depicted in this book. Particularly effective are the descriptions of the old oak forests, the wild deer and the camping ground of the Fianna.

Finn is a realistic character, and the way in which Gyr meets him and passes into his world has nothing contrived about it. There is no magical amulet or door; rather Finn and his dog, Bran, simply appear to Gyr while he is out walking his own dog, Ash. When Gyr tells Finn that his class has done a project on Finn MacCool, Finn corrects him, explaining that his name is pronounced ‘Mac-Coo-ill. Son of Cumhail not Cool.’ This humorous exchange says much about the learning process that Gyr must undergo as he grows to realise what it means to be a warrior in any age.

In contrast to many historical fantasies for this age group (10+), which avoid the more disturbing aspects of the human psyche, Gyrfalcon is an ambitious work, which addresses the topics of divorce, betrayal and suicide in a manner suitable for its young audience.