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The Fire Opalby Regina McBride
Synopses & Reviews
The March wind was wild that Saturday morning when I left the cottage with my brothers to go down the hill to the beach.
I squinted and yawned in the mild sunlight as we descended from the promontory upon which our cottage sat exposed to the full force of the Atlantic gales. I shivered, pulling close the collar of my oilcloth coat.
None of us had slept well the night before.
Our mam had been up crying, and though our da had done his best to calm her, she'd been restless and uneasy over something particular, something she spoke of only in whispers.
Mam had not been fully herself since tragedy had struck our house the year before, when my baby sister had grown sick and died. Now my brothers and I all wanted to shake off the long sleepless night we'd just passed.
My brother Donal began to race toward the rocks where he saw our da's boat beached. I'm taking the boat out he screamed.
The wind is too strong Fingal called out to him over the noise of the waves. The boat'll be dashed to the rocks
The waves broke and arched up, foaming and falling across the shoals.
Our vessel can ride those swells Donal shouted proudly. He stood near the boat but made no efforts to drag it into the tide. I knew he was just taunting Fingal, who was of a cautious nature. Even Donal, daredevil that he was, wouldn't tempt water so agitated.
My brothers and I had helped our father craft the boat and had lined it threefold in fat sealskins. Mam said that if the boat had a soul, it was a seal's soul, the way it moved, long and dark and sure of itself, cutting the waters. So she had named it Mananan's Vessel after the Irish sea god.
I've an idea, Donal said with a desperate sort of exuberance. Let's take the boat and leave Ard Macha for good and sail in search of the Holy Isles.
There's no such place as the Holy Isles, Fingal bellowed over the noise of the surf.
Many people have reported seeing them, Donal insisted.
They're imaginary. They're only territories of the mind, Fingal said, the wind blowing so hard it carried his voice above us and sent it seaward.
All my life, I had heard stories about those mysterious isles, where the goddess who had once ruled Ireland had exiled herself in centuries past. Some said the isles lay to the south, and others said they were to be found at a more northerly latitude. They were known by many names--the Holy Isles, the Land of Women, the Country of the Perpetually Young, the Isles of the Dispossessed--and were supposed to be otherworldly places where extraordinary things occurred.
They have never been mapped or charted, Fingal said, always the one to require proof of things.
Donal and Fingal were fifteen, one year older than I, and though they were twins, they could not have been more different. Donal had dark brown hair like mine and Mam's, and he was strong and solidly built, while Fingal had red hair like our da's and was slender. Donal was fiery and impulsive, while Fingal approached things with logic and caution. I often felt pulled between the two poles of their different natures, but today, Donal's wish to esc
While invading English soldiers do battle in sixteenth-century Ireland, Maeve grows up with a mystical connection to a queen who, centuries before, faced enemies of her own, and uses her special gifts to try to save her mother whose spirit has left her.
There was a time when Maeve O'Tullagh led a simple life; a time when she and her mother, Nuala, collected kelp on the foreshore near their cottage in Ard Macha; a time when she played among the Celtic ruins with her older brothers and daydreamed about the legendary Holy Isles, an enchanted land ruled in a past age by a beautiful goddess.
But after Maeve's sister, Ishleen, is born, her mother sinks into a deep, impenetrable trance. For years, Maeve tries to help her mother "awaken," and then the unthinkable happens: Ishleen succumbs to the same mysterious ailment as Nuala.
Heartbroken to think that her sister and her mother might be lost to her forever, Maeve sets off on an unimaginable quest to a world filled with fantastical creatures, a web of secrets, a handsome, devious villain who will stop at nothing to have her hand in marriage—braving them all to retrieve a powerful glowing stone that will help her recover the souls of her loved ones and bring them home to Ard Macha.
An adventure-filled and spellbinding novel, The Fire Opal will enchant fantasy readers young and old.
About the Author
Regina McBride is the critically acclaimed author of three novels for adults: The Marriage Bed, The Land of Women, and The Nature of Water and Air. The Fire Opal is her first book for young adults. She teaches creative writing at Hunter College in New York City, where she lives with her husband and daughter.
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