I got something exciting in the mail yesterday. It was a advanced reader copy of the book Oak and Mistletoe by J.Z.N. McCauley. I won this in a Goodreads giveaway contest.
It’s a new adult/young adult romance set in Ireland, involving druids and magic.
The byline on the back: A Druid Curse, A Prophesied Love, A Consuming Vengeance.
The premise of the book is interesting. The prologue opens with twin sisters and an older brother taking a trip to Ireland after the sisters graduate from college. They stay in a hostel one night, then visit a long lost uncle the next day, then the third day they leave the uncle’s cottage return to Dublin only to find out the uncle has died – but not of natural causes. I wish the story was resolving this plot-line, being a sibling mystery squad attempting to discover what happened and inadvertently crossing paths with the druids that have been in hiding, that the three of them would have a grand adventure before settling down into their career paths. But that’s not the way it goes, once you turn the page to start the first official chapter, nothing more is mentioned of the uncle who died.
The two year time gap is swiftly filled-in with brief conversations explaining what everyone has been doing with their lives. No further references are made to the pivotal crossroads the three siblings have faced. One of the sisters, Kathleen experiences marriage and subsequent divorce, The brother Danny, escapes 2 years of Corporate America because the career he chose was not a good fit for him, and finally the main character Catherine has stayed in Ireland because she has landed her dream job, but she’s been without a family and in a place much different from her home growing up. All the details shared to bridge the background provided in the prologue to the present time are superficial, referenced briefly without any depth. Based on the prologue, an elementary understanding of the personalities of the characters has unfolded (the sisters have names that are really similar and this annoyed me). Vague hints at some magic in Ireland are alluded to, and Catherine, one of the twin sisters has a innate connection to the land as if it is her talisman. (Why doesn’t her identical twin have this same connection, how does this connection manifest?) I wish there was a second prologue to get the back story of the druid story line and characters, history, magic and omens so it felt more balanced.
Without spoiling anything, around page 50 things got twisty; however, the seriousness of the themes presented, there should have been a balance with some levity and humor. Again, balance was needed.
I was sort-of into the narrative at the beginning. I realize this is an ARC and it may have had a strong editorial hand hard at work after this edition and before the final print/publishing. I was distracted to the point where it was frustrating to read. The premise is good, the execution felt rushed. (Nanowrimo?) I made it 85 pages in before adding this one to my did not finish pile. I normally quit at 75 pages but wanted to give this one the benefit of the doubt. Because this was an ARC I’m not sure how the final copy turned out. I hope the editor and author were able to smooth out the issues with bridging gaps between time and place, correcting modifiers and word choice, especially within dialogue and most importantly developing the characters so that that the reader can connect/identify/empathize with them. I gave this 2 stars as it didn’t work for me.
If you want to read a series set in Dublin, including druids & magical elements, you would probably love the Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning. (Due to language and themes The Fever Series is an adult series even though the main character is still in college)
For a well-rounded, well written, humorous take on being a Druid, check out Kevin Hearne‘s Iron Druid series.