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The Fire Opal

The Fire Opal is a YA fantasy historical by Regina McBride.

Maeve O’Tullagh lives a simple life on Irish shores of Ard Marcha with her Da, Mam, and two brothers. She plays among the ancient Celtic ruins and envisions the legendary, enchanted land of the Holy Isles –a place ruled by a goddess instead of a god, something almost preposterous in the late sixteenth century.

When Maeve’s sister Ishleen is born to her mother under enigmatic circumstances, her Mam enters a stupor. She can walk, very slowly, if prodded and eat. But she is otherwise completely absent from her body. Her eyes stay open, unseeing. She is like a vegetable almost. Maeve’s heart is broken, but from time to time she believes she can hear her mother and she talks to her. He Da and brothers begin to look at her in fear – they’re scared they’re losing her too.

As Maeve grows older, she feels strongly that there is something keeping her Mam from returning to them. Something connected with a woman that once appeared to her with charmed bottles to wear as protection and feathers falling from her shawl.

When an unexpected turn of events happens to cause yet another heartbreak, Maeve is more determined than ever to rescue her loved ones. But the cruel and handsome Tom Caven is unrelenting on her hand in marriage – and might be involved in the stealing of her Mam’s soul.

But Maeve will save her family. She has to…

The Fire Opal gripped me with its lyrical, mystical opening. This is an atmospheric Ireland with whispers of magic and lore dense among the sorrow of its first pages. I found it to be a haunting, melancholy tale with historical details that enhanced its strange, supernatural tone.

Odd occurrences peppered throughout the beginning years of Maeve’s life brought about ominous feeling, and what I loved was that I really had no idea what was going on. The Fire Opal is a war-torn, spellbinding, dark tale sudsy with mystery, unwanted attentions from an unwelcome suitor and richly romantic moments with a wanted one.

Bizarrely, once the more obviously fantasy elements began to clarify itself in a sudden (and maybe too convenient?) way that seems out of the blue, that poetic aspect seemed to waver. I tried to go along with it, but I felt the plot began to turn a little murky and convoluted. I’ll be honest – I got kind of confused. Now, with a reread that might be fixed. Or maybe I was just eating more of those crazy cupcakes without realizing it. But that’s how I felt.

Still, though, I found The Fire Opal to be a unique and exciting novel of Celtic mythology – weaving swan maidens, mermaids, and magic together – that might’ve just gotten a bit too muddled and befuddling at the end but is still worth the read.

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