O.R. Melling,
The Druid's Tune
(Puffin, 1983; HarperCollins, 1995)

Like her novel The Hunter's Moon, O.R. Melling's The Druid's Tune blends the modern world with the mythical realms of ancient Ireland. In this case, two Canadian teens are sent to summer with their Irish relations and end up embroiled in the legendary cattle raid, or tain, against Ulster.

Through their hapless interference with the secrets of a modern-day Irish druid, 17-year-old Rosemary and her 15-year-old brother Jim are thrown back in time, where they interact with the notorious Connaught queen, Maeve, and the great warriors Cuchulainn and Fergus. And, of course, they end up playing vital roles in the unfolding events, as Cuchulainn single-handedly defends Ulster against the raiding armies of Maeve and the self-exiled Fergus.

Melling gives readers a detailed view of the epic tale as seen through the eyes of her modern protagonists. Perhaps she lets the teens be a little too good at adapting to their new and violent environment, but she certainly doesn't cushion readers from the results of that violence. It is at times too real, such as the slaughter of the Ulster children who tried bravely to defend their borders against the invaders while the Ulster warriors were delayed. It is never graphic, however, and it is certainly true to the legend. And Melling did excise some of the violent outcomes of that bloody struggle.

Although Jim and Rosemary don't spend much time in modern Ireland in this book, Melling presents a charming view of rural life there.

The Druid's Tune was a pleasant read for me as an adult familiar with Irish legends. It would be an excellent introduction for younger readers.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

Buy it from Amazon.com.