It’s been awhile since I’ve done a book review, mostly because my life is busy as ever and I don’t have as much time to get lost in a book as I would like. But, when given the chance to finally finish a series I’d been deeply invested in for years–and as an advanced reader–I couldn’t pass up knowing how this story would end… and holy shit, did it deliver.
Violent, beautiful, and enthralling, The Innisfail Cycle has come to a close with a near perfect final installment in ‘The Children of Danu.’ I first picked up ‘The Sons of Mil’ almost three years ago, long before I came to know and work with the ever talented L.M. Riviere, and I remember being floored by her talent. In my initial review, I loudly praised the work for mastering “the balance between action, character development, and political intrigue without allowing them to get too heavy-handed, adding levity with humor and hints of romance.”
Oh, how adorable and naïve I was back then. What began as a fantasy epic tough enough to hold its own against its peers evolved over the course of the series into one powerful enough to hold its own against the greats. Matters of the heart are quickly overruled by claims to the crown, the horrific violence of siege war, and the devastating loss of characters whose depth, flaws, and idiosyncrasies make them feel like real companions. To say that The Innisfail Cycle is filled with beautiful descriptions undersells the skill with which Riviere describes this lush adventure through army camps, castles, villages, fortifications, and, of course, the Irish Otherworld. Her research into the rich history of Celtic mythology adds texture to this already well-spun tome, bringing to life figures of old and weaving them in against the political machinations of ambitious men and women.
Where in the fast-paced second novel, The Southernmost Star, seeds are planted for a tournament of death and destruction, in The Children of Danu, the dark days that have always lain ahead have finally arrived. Our gang is at its absolute best against threats young and ancient, with powers we can scarcely comprehend. It’s a testament to Riviere’s empathic story-telling that I found my allegiances shifting with every chapter until nearly the very end, to the point where I mourned my loss of loyalty when the time finally came.
Kaer Yin, Damek, and Una shine as always, each as complex and mysterious as they are compelling. But as always, and maybe more than ever, the secondary characters nearly steal the show. I felt Una’s pride in seeing Rian at her full potential. I basked in Barb’s sassy but steadfast leadership. My heart broke for Rosweal, and alongside Eva, Tam Lin, and Martin as they watched everything they loved fall.
The Innisfail Cycle is a visceral experience from tragic beginning to cathartic close, and The Children of Danu brings all of Riviere’s skill as a master craftsman of bone-shattering violence, enchanting ambiance, and vivid character development to the forefront. An impactful, haunting tale through and through.