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Review: Roan – The Tales of Conor Archer by E. R. Barr

Many years ago, the Tinkers went into exile. Hailing from Ireland, the men had dalliances with the shape-shifting Roan. These sea-wives appeared as seals with their pups. As soon as the pups touched the land, they changed into human children. The Tinkers called these offspring the ‘dark ones’ and took on the duty of raising them. Once they arrived in the New World, they settled where two rivers converged and steeped in mythology. For 150 years the Tinkers hid the ‘dark ones’ and their town never divulged their secrets.

In present-day Chicago, Conor Archer is experiencing one of the weirdest nights of his young life. The night his mother dies, Conor meets a mysterious biker who bites Conor’s hand. He’s overcome with pain and wanders to a fountain where he encounters another mystifying being in the form of a beautiful woman. She’s washing her hair in the fountain. Conor struck by her beauty lets her wrap his hand with a piece of her dress. Then she transforms into an old crone and predicts that Conor has less than twenty-fours to live. Conor makes it home just in time to be with his mom as she dies. Her last words were for Conor to head to Tinker’s Grove otherwise he would surely perish.

After his mother’s death, Conor heads to Tinker’s Grove, Wisconsin to live with his Aunt Emily who he has never met. When he arrives in the unfamiliar town, he’s ill from the bite. Some of the townspeople take him to the monastery, where the Abbot understands not only what ails Conor, but what can cure him as well. The Abbot and the twins, Jace and Beth Michaels, carry the sick boy to an old Indian Mound by the river. Something human-like appears out of the mound and heals Conor. That same night Conor sees Piasa, a Native American river demon, lurking in the darkness.

How can Conor’s life get any weirder? Just you wait. Quiet Tinker’s Grove is not so quiet after all. Caithness McNabb, a rich landowner, converses with the evil Piasa to gain more power and control for herself and her three boys. Dr. Drake, a bio-geneticist, joins forces with Caithness and the two of them will do whatever it takes to assist Piasa and evil to triumph over good.

Barr blends Celtic myths and Native American legends seamlessly. In addition, science and technology play a large role in this urban-epic fantasy novel. While Conor struggles accepting who and what he is, all of these forces, myths, legends, science, and technology clash complicating Conor’s life and prophecy. This is a new take on the classic good versus evil stories. Once you start this book, it may be hard to set aside.

At times, Barr becomes too wordy and this slows down the pace of the novel and diminishes the tension. Given that it’s his first novel, and the first in the series, overall I am impressed by E. R. Barr’s imagination and writing. This book ends with a bang, but the story seems like it is just beginning. How long will Barr make his readers wait for the second book? I give Roan: The Tales of Conor Archer 4 out of 5 stars and I’m eagerly anticipating the release of the next book in the series.

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