Thursday, 10 November 2011

Review: 'Bending the Boyne' by J.S. Dunn

Bending the Boyne was sent to me last month by Seriously Good Books, which is a publisher of historical fiction. It has won the 2011 Next Generation Award (USA) for historical fiction. 

2200 BCE: Changes rocking the Continent reach Eire with the dawning Bronze Age. Well before any Celts, marauders invade the island seeking copper and gold. The young astronomer Boann and the enigmatic Cian need all their wits and courage to save their people and their great Boyne mounds, when long bronze knives challenge the peaceful native starwatchers. Tensions on Eire between new and old cultures and between Boann, Elcmar, and her son Aengus, ultimately explode. What emerges from the rubble of battle are the legends of Ireland’s beginnings in a totally new light.

I accepted this book for review because I find Irelands history and myths fascinating. I also wanted to see whether Dunn would be able to write a good story without loosing the historical context or vice versa.

The story centers around Boann and how her life changes when Invaders land on Eire's shores and threaten her village. I found the beginning of this book fascinating. Dunn went into a lot of detail when describing the Starwatcher's culture and tradition, really showcasing his research. After reading the book you really feel you have developed an understanding of the importance of starwatching to these cultures. The threat posed by the Invaders is very well descrived, especially the conflict between how two different cultures clash and how the gape between the two seem impossible to overcome.

Boann is a goddess in Irish mythology, the Goddess of the river Boyne. Elcmar, her husband, and Aengus, her son, are also part of this mythology. After having read the book I looked into a number of myths concerning Boann, Brighid, Aengus and Elcmar and it is remarable how many of the storylines have been woven into the book by Dunn. As it happened, I have also been reading 'The Winged Destiny: Studies in the Spiritual History of the Gael' by Fiona Macleod / Wiliam Sharp in which there is a tale titled 'The Awakening of Aengus Og' and it seems it concerns the same Aengus. I personally love these intertextualities because they add so much more depth to a book.

What is captivating is the way Dunn has incorporated the process of trade, of creating bronze and mining copper and gold into the story. Although the chapters concerning Cian and his travels in Continental Europe can at times take long to read they are always worth your time. They truly add to the story of the book and allow Cian's character to grow beyond the stereotype. I  myself do not know that much about mining, but Dunn has incoporated it in such a way that it is not only interesting to read but also entertaining.

Overall, I give this book...


This book is a truly good read. The characters are diverse, their interaction is entertaining and the historical and cultural background has been well researched. After reading this book I had not only enjoyed myself but also learned something, no matter how cliche it sounds. And does its cover not match perfectly with my Universes?

What do you think? Does this book sound like your cup of tea?


  1. This does sound like a good read. Thanks for the review.

  2. Sounds great! I like well researched historical reads. Great review!