Review: The Arrow by Maureen O’Leary

The Arrow by Maureen O'LearyEight years ago, fifteen-year-old Fynn Kildare lived a blessed life – literally. Living in the sacred hallow of Brigid’s Keep, both she and her sister Liadan carried out miracles of healing on the sick and dying who could make their way to the secret haven of the Divine, their mother’s bloodline giving them a special bond and a position of godhood. With near-unparalleled skill with healing as with a bow, Fynn worked and played happily through her existence, despite her parents’ warnings and prophecies of destruction. That is, until the day the guards failed to screen away a woman infested with a vile demonic virus that infected and ravaged her body.

Losing trust in her family, she ran away. Now in her twenties, she holds a Ph.D in Natural Sciences and teaches in the nearby town of St. Cocha, hidden, except by chance one night to save the life of a girl at a party. When her magic alerts the powerful figures of her past, years of prophecy come to a head and plans fall into place around Fynn. When her mother unveils the method behind her madness, an old enemy rises with the strength of demons and the savvy of the modern mortal world as Fynn must decide between her mortal life or her life with the Divine when she fulfills her role as The Arrow, written by Maureen O’Leary.

The Arrow is a beautiful story that comes from a keen and well-cared-for interest in the myth and history the book bases itself on. The story follows on from the life of the Irish Saint and frequently synonymous goddess Brigid of Kildare, and the book introduces her refuge and her family, focusing on her youngest daughter as a protagonist who has inherited Brigid’s legendary healing. This uncommon Gaelic mythological setting is a breath of fresh air for a fantasy book – especially urban fantasy, a genre riddled with derivatives. Thankfully The Arrow eschews the usual protagonist and focuses on a young, accomplished woman full of self-confidence and occasionally justified rage at her position, her legs not taken from under her by the conquering nature of a romance. Romance is an element of the story, but it is treated with a realistic importance.

That said, the alien culture of the Divines and the disturbing Cain and his kin do work along lines of logic that aren’t entirely understandable from a human perspective at all times, as often in myth they wouldn’t, but it is framed in a way that keeps them from becoming strange or unrelatable. Cain’s fashionable nature and obsession with Fynn contrast and blend into a complex antagonist alongside his mother and sibling, and distinct and diverse shades of gray are commonplace without becoming unnecessarily convoluted or dark. The book does, however, have a few uncomfortable moments that could turn some readers away, despite being appropriate and restrained.

The book is extremely colorful with fantastic descriptions that are perfectly succinct, with exact emotional resonance captured in every sentence. The constant state of wonder and power in everything a Divine does is as obvious as it is subtle, and the muted, by all accounts normal nature of the antagonists is a deep contrast to this in their tight views and selfish ambitions. The world around Fynn is shown with an intimate familiarity that explores her inherent connection to it at all times and evokes a great amount of feeling with just a line or two. This may be why many chapters are kept reasonably short, despite never feeling so.

With a gorgeous cover and even more wonderful contents, The Arrow is a strong opponent to any other urban fantasy out there right now in my eyes and I highly suggest that fans of the genre – young adult and older – give the book its due and look into it. The book sings with every winning feature of its peers and shakes off many of the disappointing choices made by them. The book seems to be advertised as the first in a trilogy, and I honestly believe the world and characters are more than deserving of two more installments, given the same love and attention as this.

The author has also written How to Be Manly under the name Maureen O’Leary Wanket, a more comic novel about the trials and troubles of teenage machismo.

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