Review: Liath Luachra – The Swallowed by Brian O’Sullivan

I really like this cover best of all of his books, I think!

There’s something about Liath Luachra. She’s a really interesting character to read about, mainly because she’s often snarky AF, and isn’t about to take any nonsense from any second century dudes who don’t believe that she’s warrior enough.

Which is, admittedly, more than a little. 😀

So when I was offered a copy of this book, I jumped at it, because yay!

So, this is my honest review of the copy of it that I was given.

Ireland: Second century.

Osraighe: Ireland’s shadowy centre, a desolate region of forest, marshes and mountainous terrain where unwary travellers are ‘swallowed’ and never seen again.

Caught up in an intra-tribal conflict when her latest mission turns sour, the woman warrior Liath Luachra finds herself coerced into a new undertaking.
Dispatched to Osraighe to find a colony of missing settlers, she must lead a mismatched group of warriors, spies, and druids through a land of spectral forest, mysterious stone structures, and strange forces that contradict everything she knows of the Great Wild.

Haunted by a dead woman, struggling to hold her war-band together, Liath Luachra must confront her own internal demons while predators prowl the shadow between the trees …

Awaiting their moment to feed.

‘Grey One. Name of the Ancient Ones! What have you done?’

And although she felt as though her heart would splinter, the woman warrior furiously scraped the threat of tears from her eyes before she answered.

‘The right thing, An Giobach. I did the right thing.’

These are the sort of books that feel real, as do most of the other books by Brian O’Sullivan that I have read, which there have been admittedly fewer than I want. The fact that these are, at least in part, characters that actually occur in Irish Mythology (specifically in the Fenian Cycle, but this story does not take place during that time) and the fact that the actual Irish language is used, at least in part, to tell the story, gives it a level of depth and tangibility that I enjoy quite a bit. Irish mythology is fascinating to me, because it’s not all gods and magic. Sometimes it’s just normal(ish) people, too. 😀

You know, I’m even totally remembering my language lessons here. Through reading O’Sullivan’s books alone, I know what a fian, a fénnid, a draoi (and bandraoi!), and an éclann are. Just… like I know those words now. If I see those words I know what they mean. I remembered them from the last 2 books from this author that I read. I have legitimately learned vocabulary in another language from books in this series. Just saying. I mean, granted, none of these are going to help me out in a modern conversation… but, I can probably say ‘cock’ so, I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. ^_^

This book does start out with a little glossary of commonly used terms and what they mean though. It’s well bookmarked in the ebook too, so even electronic book readers like myself can flip back to it if they need to. But, I mean, I clearly don’t need your glossary anymore though (yes I do please don’t take it away I need it please >.>). Any time a new Irish word is presented in the story, it is defined, but not in a way that seems at all to be intrusive to the narrative. It’s used, defined, and then used here and there throughout the book in places that it is fit to use it with the assumption that you know what it means now that you’ve had it clearly defined for you.

So, Liath Luachra is, if you’re unfamiliar, a warrior woman who featured, perhaps not super prominently, but was present all the same in the Fenian cycle (the story of Fionn mac Cumhaill and the Fianna) of Irish mythology. This is an original story of her exploits, and it takes place before the beginning of the Fionn series – which is the very beginning of Fionn mac Cumhaill’s story, and is a story that this specific version of Liath Luachra features quite prominently.

She’s a gritty character, who has a troubled past, and that past is catching up to her bit by bit. As she and her fian (which is more or less her band of warriors/mercenaries) are working to rescue a woman from a rival clan, things go… really quite south, and Liath Luachra, the Grey One of Luachair (which is not her name, it is a title), finds herself suddenly leading her war band through An Díthreabh Uaigneach, the Lonely Land, a place where people are ‘swallowed’ and never seen or heard from again.


This was a quick read, and the plot moved quickly through all kinds of spooky places in the Lonely Land. It was well written, edited well, and had characters that were interesting to read about. The Irish language is used really cleverly to describe people, which gave it a depth and realism that made the spooky parts even spookier. This is historical fantasy. These places exist. Which makes the idea of being haunted and followed by ghosts and shadows and giant wolves a bit spookier if it took place in just some place that was made up.

GHOSTS! WoOOOOoooooOOOOOoooOOOOOoookay I’ll stop this now. >.>

The ending was awesome, made sense, and legitimately surprised me at times. I really liked some of the other characters too, most notably Íte, the bandraoi (she’s a druid), and An Giobach, who is a fénnid in Liath Luachra’s fian. Feirgil is another really interesting character, as he is known to be taken by the ríastraid, which means, more or less, that he’s a berserker. At the same time, he seems very innocent, or.. honestly I sort of thought of him as mildly autistic, outside of being in battle. She’s got herself a pretty interesting band. The characters were unique and interesting, is what I’m getting at here. >.>;

This is a blind goat. Just because.

All told, I really enjoyed it. I do hope to continue the story of Fionn mac Cumhaill soon, but getting this up close and personal look inside my favorite character from O’Sullivan’s Fionn series is really quite awesome. This one is a great addition to the series, and I got 4/5 stars of enjoyment from it. I would really like to see how Liath Luachra ends up at Ráth Bládhma though. ❤ ^_^

This book is standalone, so you can totally read it and enjoy it without having read any of the Fionn series or any of the previous books about Liath Luachra.


Thanks again to the author for the review copy. 🙂

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