on October 17, 2009
I bought this book for my son who loves giants, wizards and world mythologies. Though it could prove useful for a university-level Celtic mythology class, it leaves adult and child fantasy fans cold.
The publisher recommends the book for children aged 9 to 12 (grades 3 to 6). But the author keeps pelting the reader with unnecessary and pompous vocabulary. Ten year olds do not understand the meaning of bilious, shoal, piety, belie, victuals, uncouth, pang, confound, don, mundane, clout, cantankerous, malodorous, impertinent, hexagonal, nonplussed, simperer, bough and porcine. Embarrassingly, the author sometimes misapplies such words, betraying his ignorance of the word's semantic nuance or even its plain meaning.
On page 2, the author's hasty world-building drowns the reader in a tsunami of proper nouns with insufficient context: Gogmagog, Great Ones, Finn mac Cuhail, Cuhail mac Art, Muirne, Nuada, Albion, Fomorians, Frost Giants, Treryn, Eire, Fianna, Ymir.
The book portrays an unsympathetic protagonist, so you really don't care if he wins or fails, lives or dies. Early on, a human taunts the protagonist Finn with "Did your mummy give you that [lavender] scarf?" Finn responds by lifting the human in the air by the neck (like he's Darth Vader) and threatens to disembowel him with a sword. Finn later cuts his enemy Ymir into two or more pieces, leaving behind a "pool of venomous black blood".
The book obsesses over how the fantasy races of this world differ. The racialist descriptions disturbed me, hinting at undertones of white supremacism. The women act as one-dimensional stereotypes: frustrated and bossy, housewives and spinsters. Finn has this creepy and infantile coping mechanism: he vigorously sucks his thumb to awaken magic powers when he gets desperate. In a gross reliance on paternal phallicism, Finn uses his father's indestructible "red sword" to defeat his enemies.
There's no coherent plot worthy of a novel, more a collection of loosely-related short stories. Finn usually defeats powerful enemies without cleverness. The author bases story events on fastidious research of Celtic mythology, but he shapes the narrative pedantically and without soul.
FINN THE HALF-GREAT clearly aspires to emulate Tolkien's THE HOBBIT, but unfortunately its amateurism lacks the fantastical charm, linguistic craftsmanship, epic stakes, moral guidance or enduring pathos.