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The Princes of Ireland: The Dublin Saga    by Edward Rutherford order for
Princes of Ireland
by Edward Rutherford
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2005 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The histories of Ireland and England have been intertwined for many centuries. Edward Rutherford, the author of Sarum, Russka, London, and The Forest has fictionalized the years between 430 and 1538 AD in Ireland while still keeping to the facts of the eras as they are recorded in the archives of time. He has used historical people and created others as they were needed for the continuity of his saga.

The cover blurb of this amazing tome says 'Rutherford is the history teacher you wished you had in high school.' How right that statement is. This riveting story grabs the reader from the first page and won't let go until the 765th page. I still wanted more. Starting with the bare beginnings of Dubh Linn (Dublin), Rutherford carries us through the centuries with the same families twisting together as a Celtic design might, with no beginning and no end. We, by now Rutherford's students, learn of the beginnings of different bloodlines, their subsistence, their clothes and foods, habitats, and loyalties. And, of course, their wars.

We engage in their tribal wars and see St. Patrick arrive as a missionary. The making of the Books of Kells - that priceless illuminated manuscript which can be seen today in the library at Trinity College - is documented. We meet farmers and noblemen, priests and druids, smugglers and businessmen, cattle owners and silversmiths, jealousy and love, good people and bad - all who made Ireland the magnificent country it is today. The appearance of the Vikings changed the world as they then knew it. Slowly those invaders meshed with the Irish, producing the red haired, blue eyed Irishman. Irish place and family names combined to produce new sounds.

The English arrived as conquerors and once again names changed. It is truly fascinating to see the progression of a family name from one spelling to another through time. Religion played a big part in Irish life - from pagan gods to Roman Catholicism. Henry VIII, with his roving romantic eye, became the titular head of the new English church leaving the Pope in the Vatican angry with England. Ireland received the fallout from this dispute. Monks and Friars were important to the religious life of this small western island and it was a real blow when England tried to convert Ireland to its own beliefs.

Ireland revered learning and hospitality, which has made the country a wonderful place to visit. I have been there many times. But I now look forward to a return trip so I can look at my special country with an eye of understanding of what she has become and how that came about.

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