October 2010, O'Brien Press Ltd
256 Pages, Paperback
Children's Historical Fiction
Summary from O'Brien Press
When young Con disappears, the others must find him – and quickly. His father Hugh O’Neill, the great Ulster chieftain, is about to depart, forever. The Irish have lost at the Battle of Kinsale, and now there is nothing left for them in their own land. Hugh’s son is in great danger – and he doesn’t even know it! What would the English do to him if they caught him? Especially now as his father may be gathering another foreign army to threaten their own conquest of Ireland?
Can his cousin and friends, Fion, Sinead and James, find him? Will their hunt across wild landscapes, through dense woodlands and over high mountains, chased by English soldiers and adventurers, and occasionally guided by the mysterious ‘Haystacks’, take them to the boy? Will they manage to get him to Lough Swilly in time for the escape boat to France? The Great Hugh O’Neill is waiting anxiously …
Based on true facts from the 1600s.
Based on a historical event - the Flight of the Earls - the story is of Con, the son of one of the most powerful men in Ireland. Con is only 7 years old but growing up fast along with his friends Jane and James and his cousin Fion. Throughout the book they do and say things that gave me the tendency to think "These are only children" but what the author is doing - and doing it well - is showing how people had to grow up fast in the early 17th century. And while the story is entertaining and well told we also learn of the lifestyle, events, manners and many more things that were around in Ireland at that time. It was not a time that the English should be proud of and sets the tone for Anglo-Irish relations over the next few centuries and while it would be easy to drum up hate for the English through this story, the author instead manages to make it clear what was happening historically but the readers emotions are only channelled towards the characters in the book - an excellent balancing act.
I believe fiction books should be about the story first and this book is and is a very good read - the history that we pick up is incidental and very nice to have and it hasn't impacted the story.
Other reading may be Alex McLean - Time Traveller by Morag Ramsey