Monday, April 1, 2013

Childhood Revisited: My Review of THE HOUNDS OF THE MORRIGAN

I want to thank everyone who participated in the Childhood Revisited blog series. I really enjoyed reading reviews of book I fell in love with as a child - they made me want to re-read them all.

My copy of the book has been taped back
together more than once.

My love affair with The Hounds of the Morrigan began in fourth grade. It was the biggest book in our school library, and I had always had a thing for weighty tomes. I gained an enormous sense of satisfaction when I finished long books, but it also meant I could live in their world a little bit longer.

We visited the library every two weeks, so at the end of the two weeks, I was disappointed when I had to return the book. I begged my parents to buy it for me for Christmas, and I was thrilled when it was propped against the fireplace on Christmas morning. I finished it fairly quickly after that, so enamoured was I with the characters and their quest to basically save the world. There is one particular moment that I can recall as vividly today as if it just happened. I was lying on my bed reading this book with the radio on in the background. “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles came on (you read that right - the Bangles), and the mood and tone of the song so perfectly fit the scene I was reading that I seriously felt as if my heart were too big for my chest. That is the first time I really remember being so moved, so caught up in a story that the words felt more real than reality. I had always been able to lose myself in a good book, but this was so beyond that.

The Hounds of the Morrigan follows ten-year-old Pidge and his five-year-old sister Bridget. They have been recruited to go on a quest to find a stone with the Morrigan’s blood on it. If she finds it first, the world will be doomed. They are followed along the way by the Morrigan’s hounds, who can scent them but are not allowed to actually hunt them unless the children run in front of them. I always felt such fear for the kids, as I knew how badly they wanted to run but couldn’t. They are helped along the way many times by both man and beast, and must outwit the Morrigan as she uses her magic to prevent them from finding the pebble first.

This book was released in 1985, well before Harry Potter, and I loved the fantasy and magic and danger. I had never read a book like it. At the time I believed the children to be in a completely new world, but in re-reading it, I realized they are in Ireland. (Which is fantastical enough for me.) Most of the story’s characters are based on Celtic mythology, and I do wish I knew a little bit more about that. I think that would make the story even better.

As a child I loved the stories and characters, particularly Roo, the Fox. I have read this book more times than I can remember, but this is the first time I’ve re-read this book since becoming serious about my writing. This time around I was more interested in O’Shea’s writing. I’m sure part of that had to do with the fact that I know this story so well. But O’Shea does a wonderful job with voice. The story is told in third-person POV, and many times we are in Pidge’s head. He, and his little sister, seem much wiser and more mature than their age. But somehow O’Shea still manages to keep a child’s voice without sacrificing language. She does not dumb down her vocabulary or really even simplify her sentence structure. The dialogue, particularly when Bridge is speaking, still makes me giggle.

The Hounds of the Morrigan is one of those books that feel like they belong just to me. I’ve never met anyone else, besides my sister, who has read this book. If you have, I would love to hear your thoughts. If you haven’t – well, I guess I can share.

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