What can I say about this book? The Last Five Swords returns to the type of epic fantasy I loved as a boy. Black and white images and short introductions at the start of each chapter returned me to authors like Jeffrey Farnol and Robert Jordan. Little mores written in Gaelic with a translation lend significantly to the novel’s world-building.
Few authors represent Irish mythology. Micheál Cladáin springs to mind. Of course, Rosemary Sutcliff modernised mythology, including the Ulster Cycle myths, back in the seventies, but not in the same storytelling style this author has adopted and mastered.
So, where does John De Búrca take the reader?
Two Irish lads witness the massacre of a rival gang searching for them in a wood. The mercenaries who killed the boys are hunting a Fae Princess, who is hiding in the same tree. Their meeting leads to a quest that brings the reader on a journey of love, murder, potential treachery and a broken-down bunch of heroes who want nothing more than the chance to live in peace.
There is humour and pathos, violence, and blood. Love and battle. Life and death in ancient Ireland. Swords, archers, heroes and villains abound.
I give The Last Five Swords five stars. I recommend it to all fans of fantasy and storytelling. It is a classic Epic Fantasy.