I don’t read YA. I don’t read fantasy. I rarely read anything mythological. But I picked up Ali Isaac’s first Conor Kelly book
Conor Kelly and the Four Treasures of Eirean
as much to see if I shouldn’t be such a snob. This is part one of the Tir Na Nog trilogy.
And of course, in a repeat of a truth universally acknowledged, a reader with an open mind is in want of a good book.
And this is a good book. Well written, brilliantly researched it is a delight.
We follow a young man on a journey. Not any journey but a world saving one. Conor is wheelchair bound, incapable of speech and off to the physio. Personally I’ve never liked the physio and I’ll be a bit more cautious in future after what happens next.
Now, as someone who has avoided this genre the first time we visit a mystical magical world, my heart sinks. Fortunately we are with a delightful sceptic in Conor. And a miserablist in Annalee as his guide. She’s great btw, a compelling mix of cunning, guilt riven and tough as Irish granite – my perfect heroine.
The premise is necessarily fantastical but the world we visit is internally credible and the people awkward and believable. Perfection is in short supply both physically and in moral compass terms. If I’d make any criticism it is when Conor asks why people with magic don’t use it to help with mundane tasks. The reply is based on some high minded self limiting code. Sorry but why? I’d get it if you only have so much and have to limit it so as not to waste it. Or there was some terrible God who’d do unspeakable things to you as capricious gods do.
Still it’s a small point and once the quest is explained and Conor’s role in it laid out the action moves along at a rare old pace. Of particular delight for me was learning about Irish mythology and its archaeology. I want to visit these sights and sites. And what is noticeable is how the real world, a world Ali well understands, is used as a fabulous backdrop to the fantastical action.
This tale is branded for a Y A audience. I do see that. But really it’s more than that. It’s hero is young but the story told is timeless, Arthurian and Potterist, An Odyssey for our time.
So lesson learned (again). Rowling and Gaimen write cracking stories, Morpurgo too. For children and adults alike. Add Issac to that list.