Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book Review: 'Duilleog' by Donald D. Allan

Canadian author Donald D. Allan was born in Ottawa to Scottish immigrants. Though he offers very little biographical material either connected with this book or on his website, we do catch a glimpse of the character we are about to meet in his self description as `a geek and a mild nerd who finds solace in all things science and science fiction/fantasy. He prefers the written word over pretty much every other kind of entertainment or media source - his escape from the harsh realities of life and reading lets him explore all the worlds that can be imagined.' He is living at the present in Virginia with his family but plans to return to Canada soon. He is a novelist of fantast, science fiction and urban fantasy. DUILLEOG is his debut novel.

Donald's subject matter for this series of books is the Druids, and for those who need memory jogging the following is offered: A druid was a member of the educated, professional class among the Celtic peoples of Gaul, Britain, Ireland, and possibly elsewhere during the Iron Age. The druid class included law-speakers, poets and doctors, among other learned professions, although the best known among the druids were the religious leaders. Very little is known about the ancient druids. They left no written accounts of themselves, and the only evidence is a few descriptions left by Greek, Roman, and various scattered authors and artists, as well as stories created by later medieval Irish writers. While archaeological evidence has been uncovered pertaining to the religious practices of the Iron Age people, "not one single artifact or image has been unearthed that can undoubtedly be connected with the ancient Druids." Various recurring themes emerge in a number of the Greco-Roman accounts of the druids, including that they performed animal and even human sacrifice, believed in a form of reincarnation, and held a high position in Gaulish society. Next to nothing is known for certain about their cultic practice, except for the ritual of oak and mistletoe, their doctrine of the immortality of the soul and reincarnation or metempsychosis - the souls of men are immortal, and that after a fixed number of years they will enter into another body.
What Donald has created in this new novel is a story of indeterminate time in which he offers his own view of the Druids, particularly in the character of on Will Arbor. In his synopsis he states, `The young man, Will Arbor, the last of a long line of druids, discovers his miraculous healing powers and begins a journey of self-discovery to reclaim his past. Visit a world where the balance of the land is in complete disarray with the Archbishop of the Church of the New Order seeking to eradicate the druids and regain his mastery over the Realm of Turgany, and the Protector of the Realm conducting horrific acts to insure that his authority is maintained. They will all set into motion events that will affect the lives of everyone. Share in Will's joy at discovering the beauty of nature and experience the horrors that only the greed of power and wealth can unleash, exploring a world where magic is forgotten and the druids who once gave balance to the world are long gone. DUILLEOG captures the joy of a journey to discover truths and the strength of one young man to change the world.'

Will Arbor is a fascinating character Donald has created and on that obviously will maintain the readers' interest through this series of very strange details about the druids. `As the magistrate for Jaipers, when I had first entered the town, Comlin had approached me wanting to know where I was from, how long I was staying in the area, and later, once I had traded my wares, where I had learned to gather herbs. He always wanted to know everything he could about me. And I had told him the truth - well, mostly. I hid from him the painful truths - stuff he hadn't needed to know. I wasn't going to open my past up to anyone. I had promised my mother to stay hidden and safe and I hadn't broken that vow.' Will gathers herbs with his magic sickle for concoctions of healing and magic and his interaction with the strange period of time in which he lives Donald brings springingly to life.

For a debut novel this is a fine start. It would be helpful to offer the reader a bit more background history and spend a bit more time in the scant conversations, allowing the reader to understand, place, time, and characterizations. But this is Book 1 - and there is time for that. Grady Harp, June 15

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.