The Greener Shore by Morgan Llywelyn

Read: 17 March, 2009

In this sequel to Druids, Ainvar escapes from a Roman-ruled Gaul to the shores of Hibernia. Once there, he must learn the ways of Eriu, a strange woman who speaks to him from the Otherworld. As he forges a place for himself and his large family among the Gaels, he manages to tread on the toes of some locals. Unfortunately, his druidic powers have deserted him since the battle of Alesia, leaving him vulnerable. Meanwhile, Cormiac Ru must find the long-lost Maia, whom he believes himself destined to marry despite the fact that she was stolen and sold into Roman slavery as an infant.

POSITIVE: Llywelyn’s writing style has not much changed in the years between Druids and Greener Shore. This new novel has most of the same strengths and flaws as its predecessors. While this can certainly be a negative (it would have been nice to see the author correct what had held Druids back from being a great novel), I found it a positive – if only because Greener Shore didn’t suffer from the all-too-common sequel-itis. This was not a novel released hurriedly in the hopes that it would ride its predecessor’s laurels.

As in Druids, the beginning was rather painful, but the story soon picked up. I managed to fly through two-hundred pages in just a few hours.

NEGATIVES: There didn’t seem to be much direction to the novel. Druids had the creation of the Gaulish federation and the defeat of Caesar, but Greener Shore lacked any kind of similar goal. Rather, the plot ambled along until it reached an epiphany, but this was done in a rather lack-luster way. Had the epiphany been very good, or had the journey been dotted with thought-provoking insight, this would have been fine. Unfortunately, Greener Shore lacked both. Those many sayings peppering the novel that were clearly meant to be “deep” were rather quite obvious and common to most books that seek depth. Those little surprising, funny, and interesting sayings that sometimes found their way into Druids were lacking here.

I also found exposition of what had happened in the previous novel to be rather heavy-handed. I wish Llywelyn had either sought to make Greener Shore a stand-alone part of a saga, or a straight sequel of Druids. Instead, she gave it a completely different feel (which is a completely waffly term, I know – but it’s the best I can come up with) while constantly bogging it down with “as you know, Martha” moments where characters narrate the events of the first novel to characters who had been present! I raised a similar complaint when I read Druids. Llywelyn spends far too much time on exposition and simply does not seem to trust her readers.

The Greener Shore is only a sequel of Druids in the sense that it involves many of the same characters and takes place after the events of the early book. Yes, that sounds like the definition of a sequel, but Greener Shore is an entirely different book with a completely different story to tell. Change the names and strike out the cumbersome “in the last episode” passages and it would function perfectly as an independent novel. Those wanting more Druids will be disappointed. Those wanting more Llywelyn will not.

P.S.: If anyone can tell me why Ainvar keeps refering to Ireland by its Roman name instead of the name the Gaels use, please explain it to me. I would have assumed that he would be eager to accept just about anything other than the Roman designation. All I can think is that it was supposed to have some sort of symbolic significance when, at the end, he talks about remembering Eriu, but it just doesn’t make sense to me.

Buy The Greener Shore: A Novel of the Druids of Hibernia from Amazon to help me afford my eldritch druidic worship!

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