Heroes of the Red Branch Knights

Heroes of the Red Branch Knights is the twelfth book in the series described by Poolbeg as 'Ireland's Best Known Stories in a Nutshell.' The books present Irish myths and legends in a cheap and cheerful format for readers growing in confidence. The easy-to-read type, combined with a picture on every page, bring even the reluctant reader from one short chapter to the next. The stories in this volume take us from the founding of the Knights of the Red Branch by King Conor of Ulster, through the Branch's training camps for boys, and onto the great saga of Cúchulainn and Ferdia. Because I always loved the lead-up to the story of how Setanta killed Culann's hound with his sliotar, I was sorry to see that particular part of the story truncated into 'soon after his arrival Setanta killed the great guard-dog of Culann the blacksmith.' We do, however, get the crucial part of the story, when Setanta offers to replace the dog by becoming Cú Chulainn or the Hound of Culann, and no doubt readers will grow to read fuller versions of the legends. The rest of the book is a lightning tour through the love, jealousy, violence and revenge of the Irish saga. Deirdre, betrothed to King Conor, elopes with Naoise; Maeve of Connacht sets her heart and her army on Ulster's Brown Bull of Cooley; and various beloved heroes meet a treacherous or a noble end. Derry Dillon's quickfire black and white cartoon drawings are a good match for Ann Carroll's simple, no frills retelling of the tales.

Also in this series: The Adventures of the Fianna