Irish Knight by Amy J. Fetzer
(Zebra, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8217-7218-X
***
Connal PenDragon has always considered himself a loyal knight. When King Richard demands he return to Ireland and marry Sinead DeClare, that loyalty is tested. You see, Sinead is the most notorious witch in Ireland, and he was on the receiving end of her magical powers as a lad.

In her defense, Sinead did not intend to turn the bottom half of Connal into a goat. She was young and had a crush on the budding knight. When he did not return her affections, she lashed out in a fit of pique. Those actions caused Sinead to be bound against using magic for many years, and she is still bound against using it against Connal.

Connal doesn't know this, so he doesn't trust Sinead. Sinead for her part is against the marriage because she views Connal's loyalty to Richard as a betrayal of his Irish heritage. However, something deep inside Sinead tells her Connal is in danger and only she can protect him.

The primary problem with Irish Knight is its constant repetition of events. For example, Connal and Sinead's first three meetings are nearly identical. She accuses Connal of betraying Ireland, he counters with suspicions about her magical powers, she tells him she will not marry him, he says Richard demands it. Once would have been plenty.

This continues through the book, giving the reader the feeling that they were covering the same ground over and over. More time should have been spent on Connal's backstory, the reasons behind his brooding and loyalty to Richard. As it is, these revelations come quite late in the story, and by that time the reader is thoroughly tired of Connal.

Still, the scenes where Sinead uses her powers are magical indeed. Fetzer conjures up rich sensory detail, carrying the reader right to the center of the spell. Particularly effective is the way Sinead's magic is enhanced during her love scenes with Connal. Trees come into leaf, cloaks on the ground meld into soft moss. Fetzer describes the phenomena perfectly, making the magic believable.

Also included in this story is a bit of the Robin Hood legend. Connal and Sinead meet up with Robert of Locksley and Marian. Rather than seem trite or out of place, the bit of the familiar perked up the story as it started to drag. Also, the secondary character of Nahjar, Connal's right hand man, was intriguing. One wishes he could have had a more prominent role in the book, as I found him much more interesting than Connal. It would be nice to see Nahjar in his own story, though not many books feature Moors.

Irish Knight is a blend of historical and paranormal romance. The paranormal segments succeed much better than the rest, but it is an acceptable book.

--Anne Bulin


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