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September 2005
 
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The Unfortunate Fursey and The Return Of Fursey, by Mervyn Wall (1946/1948)

THE IRISH monastery of Clonmacnoise has long been free from demonic attack, but when its defenses are finally breached, it is discovered that the Forces of Darkness are taking refuge in the cell of Brother Fursey, whose stammer prevents him from reciting the necessary exorcisms. So Fursey is cast out, a supernatural horde trailing behind him. When he takes shelter with a widow, propriety demands that he marry her. But she is a witch and Fursey accidentally acquires her powers. Now a sorcerer, albeit an incompetent one, whose sole trick is tossing a rope over a beam to produce a mug of beer, he is feared throughout Ireland, pursued by the Church, and defended in court by the Devil himself.

In the second volume, Fursey despairs of being reconciled with the Church and embraces wickedness. Alas, he is unequal to the task, too squeamish to allow Albert, his long-suffering familiar, even a drop of his blood, not quite up to murder, and an embarrassment at the Sabbat.

Synopsis cannot do these books justice. They are masterpieces of comic fantasy, full of barbed satire and, ultimately, heart-rending tragedy, as lovable, sad Fursey simply cannot find a place for himself, either among the forces of Light or those of Darkness. They are as good as T. H. White, better than Cabell, utterly unique. Wall (1908-1995) was an Irish playwright, novelist, and civil servant, well-known in Irish literary circles, but, alas, yet undiscovered by fantasy readers in general. These books are treasures.

—Darrell Schweitzer

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