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Fire Arrow
Edith Pattou
Harcourt Brace, 332 pages

Fire Arrow
Edith Pattou
Edith Pattou is the author of Hero's Song, the first book of the Songs of Eirren series. She lives with her husband and daughter in Ohio, where she is at work on the third volume of the series.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

In Hero's Song, the first of Edith Pattou's Songs of Eirren series, the boy Collun leaves his farmstead on a quest to find his kidnapped sister Nessa, and meets with high adventure along the way: powerful sorcerers, inhuman races, enchanted forests, impenetrable labyrinths, and a host of magical creatures both helpful and sinister, including a vast white Wurme that he must kill in order to set his sister free.

Fire Arrow, next in the series, takes up the tale of Brie, one of Collun's companions along the quest. Brie saw her father murdered when she was a child, and since then has lived only for revenge. Her search takes her north, into the mysterious land of Dungal, where she finds and slays her father's killers. But vengeance, which has governed her life for so long, proves hollow in the achievement. Brie takes refuge in a small fishing village, where she learns the ways of the sea and tries to discover a new direction for her life.

But evil is brewing in the northern land of Scath, ruled by the witch queen Medb. Her attempted invasion of Eirren was the one Collun and others turned back in the previous book. Now Medb wants to conquer Dungal. She unleashes a variety of evils upon the land -- shoals of rapacious sea-snakes to infest the ocean, drought and windstorms to decimate the crops, roaming bands of murderous goat-men to terrorize the populace -- and sends the sorcerer Balor to lead the invasion. Balor, who is Brie's cousin, seeks out and captures her. He wants her for his consort -- but he also desires the magical fire-arrow she has inherited, for it has been prophesied that the arrow will destroy him.

Balor imprisons Brie in an enchanted belltower, each of whose rooms holds a different spell. But Collun has dreamed of Brie, and he comes to rescue her. Together Brie and Collun assemble a ragtag army and journey out to face Balor and his huge force of goat-men and evil, lizard-like morgs. In the great battle that follows the fire-arrow works its magic, and Balor is destroyed, along with his inhuman army. Dungal is saved -- though not without great cost.

Fire Arrow is a much more accomplished book than its predecessor, which, despite its swift adventure, was slowed by big chunks of explanatory dialogue and awkward point-of-view shifts. Fire Arrow's narrative stays with Brie, who is an appealing character, entirely believable in her determination and bravery. There is little of the narrative-halting exposition that marred Hero's Song, and rehash of previous action is kept to a minimum. Pattou has a formidable imagination; Fire Arrow is replete with fascinating and fantastical images, creatures, and settings. I particularly like the story's integration -- and transformation -- of Irish myth and folklore.

There is a sense, sometimes, of a little too much going on. The adventures come so thick and fast the reader hardly has time to absorb one before being vaulted onward to the next. Some of the characters are annoyingly stock; others are sketchily drawn, and it's a little difficult sometimes to remember who is who. And the nitpicker in me cringes each time someone eats corn or tomatoes, New World vegetables unlikely to exist even in an Ireland-that-never-was. But overall, this is an engrossing, well-crafted book, and will be much enjoyed by young fans of high fantasy. Pattou is clearly a writer whose skill is growing with experience; if the third book in the series is as much of a leap forward as Fire Arrow, it should be very good indeed.

Copyright © 1998 by Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel The Arm of the Stone is currently available from HarperCollins EOS. For details, visit her Web site.

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