Fans of Morgan Llywelyn will be familiar with the setting and themes presented here – her fantasy/New Age take on Celtic history. I’ve read a good number of her books, although not in a few years, and enjoyed them greatly. However, ‘Only the Stones Survive’ feels more like backstory for a novel than the novel itself. It’s the alternate history, not the story set in that history.
Here we learn how the Tuatha Dé Danann, a tribe with ancient and possibly extraterrestrial or supernatural origins, have settled on the island of Eire. They’ve been here for so long that they themselves no longer remember all their history. They have renounced their fearful weapons in favor of a peaceful, agricultural existence. Even their formidable magic is rarely used.
None of this works to their advantage when they are invaded by a rough group of seafarers from Iberia. The softheartedness of the Tuatha Dé Danann allows the invaders to make landfall – and live. In return, many of the peaceful people are soon slaughtered.
The book has a main character, a young elvish (oops, I mean Tuatha Dé Danann) man, through whose eyes we see the sweeping events that affect his people. But none of the individual characters really came alive for me. The focus here is Llywelyn’s fantastic/wishful-thinking history of the origin of the Celtic people.
If you’re a Llywelyn completist, you may very well enjoy this. If you’re new to the author, I’d recommend starting with one of her classics instead, such as the epic ‘Lion of Ireland.’
Many thanks to Tor and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinion is solely my own.