The Magic Cup is very different from other novels by Greeley. It is a fantasy based upon ancient Irish legends. It is a story of Cormac MacDermot, the Tanaise, the expected High King of Tara, and his quest to claim his crown.
According to the legend, the tanaise is required to find and obtain the "magic cup", a lovely jeweled chalice, and the mysterious princess Delvcaem. Having accomplished these tasks he can claim Tara, his Kingdom, and make Ireland Christian.
On his journey he is accompanied by Briget, whom he calls biddy, and his mighty hound Podraig The challenges Cormac faces on his quest are interesting: monstrous animals and people; a seemingly endless sea with massive storms; mountainous natural barriers. The characters are real and the descriptions of locations and events are colorful and realistic. Greeley's depiction of being soaked in a rainstorm left me chilled and feeling wet. The author is especially talented at describing moods and dreams. Some of the dreams are so realistic I felt I was actually present. The descriptions are wonderful, however, even more fascinating are the interactions among the characters with their fears, joys, prejudices, and superstitions.
The relationship between Cormac and Briget is especially nice. They progress slowly from strangers through master and slave, and finally friends with mutual respect and admiration. Their interactions are vital to the tale. They endure sort of a courtship, testing each other, shyly observing each other, and helping and saving one another.
Cormac is similar to many of Andrew Greeley's males. He is clueless toward women. He knows he is attracted to them, feels the need for sexual encounter, but fears a real relationship with a woman. He does not understand women, but does not seem to realize the extent of his misunderstanding. Cormac starts as an intelligent but deeply depressed man who struggles to accept his destiny. He broods, dreams and demonstrates that he is unhappy about his role in life. It requires numerous adventures to awaken Cormac to his mission. Observing Cormac struggle through some of his challenges, I was often amazed that he could continue. The obstacles he encounters are impressive. He overcomes each trial, usually by the skin of his teeth.
Like many females that precede her, Briget is one of Greeley's strong Irish women. Bridget is a slave girl who is bonded to Cormac. She doesn't really treat Cormac as her better, or as master or King. She seems to believe that he is just a big oaf who needs her care. She sees herself as plain and unworthy, but is outspoken and often sarcastic. Briget is obviously gifted but unschooled and undisciplined. Her heart is generous and she takes good care of Cormac. She often dreams of becoming his queen and without realizing it she comes to love him.
I enjoyed meeting Cormac and Briget. This is a fun novel and I recommend it.