Lion of Ireland tells the story of Brian Boru, perhaps the greatest Irish king who ever lived. He ruled at the end of the Tenth Century, during a time when Norse and Danish Vikings controlled large portions of Ireland, including the Viking towns of Limerick and Dublin. Rich with natural resources and monasteries laden with silver, Ireland had lured the Vikings for two centuries, but their reign ended in large part because of Brian Boru.
The Norse riverboats glided down the breast of the Shannon and nosed toward the grassy verge where the geese had fed. In the lead boat, Eyrik Gunnarsson stood tall in the prow of the River Serpent, beating his hand against his thigh in time to the cadence of the oars. Death rode with him on the night wind, and he felt pride in carrying it.Brian’s hatred of the Vikings fuels his ambition. As a grown man, he leads skirmishes against the Limerick Vikings, luring many to their death, and in time becomes the King of Munster and ultimately High King (Ard Ri) of all of Ireland.
Llywelyn’s Boru is a hero much like Braveheart’s William Wallace, faced with as many enemies among the kings of Ireland as he has among the Danes and Norse. The novel is filled with treachery, intrigue, and conflict, perhaps none more interesting than Brian’s volatile relationship with the sensual and cunning Irish queen Gormlaith. Her beauty transfixes Brian, and “looking into her face, he sees Ireland itself.”
In Gormlaith, however, Brian finds more than he bargained for. By the time they wed, she was already famous, having previously married two of Brian’s rivals: Olaf Cuaran, the Viking King of Dublin who left her a widow, and Malachi Mor, the High King of Ireland before Boru claimed the throne. Gormlaith also was the mother of Sitric Silkbeard, who succeeded Olaf as ruler of Dublin, and her fiery relationship with Brian ends up threatening the kingdom he has fought so hard to unite. For her son wants Brian dead, and to kill him Sitirc gathers a Viking army for a battle that will decide the fate of Ireland.
If you are interested in one of the most fascinating figures in Irish history, or just want another good book about the Viking Age, I highly recommend Lion of Ireland.
|Clontarf, 23 April 1014, the battle that would decide the fate of Ireland.|