January 8, 2012

A Wicked Bard Review of 'A Celtic Darkness'

For many Americans, the Emerald Isle is a land of smiling eyes, freckled balladeers singing "too la roo la roo la," and dancing leprechauns (who make our breakfast cereal magically delicious).

Eoghain Hamiliton abandons this Americanized, romanticized notion of Ireland in his book, A Celtic Darkness: Supernatural Tales of Ireland, and instead presents an Ireland that suffers from a troubled past as well as an uncertain economic future.

But as the title suggests, A Celtic Darkness is not grounded firmly in the realm of reality. Hamilton cleverly mixes his raw, fact-based view of Ireland with the realm of the supernatural. Ghosts lurk in the centuries-old cemeteries, skeletons lie waiting in ancient underground tunnels, and banshees make their rounds to country homes, warning occupants of impending death.

The short stories that comprise A Celtic Darkness will all succeed in raising the hair on the back of your neck and - in some instances - nightmares may ensue. However, Hamilton does not rely on gory descriptions for scaring your pants off (although - spoiler alert - in one story someone is decapitated by a shovel). 
The unifying feature of all of these stories is that the plots initially seem believable (or at least plausible) and you can easily put yourself in the protagonist's shoes. Examples: a man visits his childhood home and old memories begin bubbling to the surface; a young, arrogant businessman is invited to a Halloween/Samhain party, but refuses to participate in the supernatural festivities; two college students experiment with mind-altering substances around a bonfire.

After finishing the book, I couldn't help but think to myself: "Do any (or all) of these stories have a basis in Hamilton's own life experiences? Does he actually believe in ghosts, banshees and the like? Has Hamilton experienced 'a Celtic darkness' first hand?"
Eoghain Hamiliton is originally from Cork, but now lives with his family in South Boston.
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P.S. Hey there! If you liked this post, I have a hunch you'll love NEON DRUID: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Fantasy. It's a collection of 17 short stories all rooted in Celtic mythology.

P.P.S. You can also check out my new blog, Irish Myths, where I unveil the secrets of Celtic mythology, Irish mythology, and Irish folklore.