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Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma

(Fionn mac Cumhaill #1)

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  169 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Ireland: 192 A.D. A time of strife and treachery. Political ambition and inter-tribal conflict has set the country on edge, testing the strength of long-established alliances.

Following their victory over Clann Baoiscne at the battle of Cnucha, Clann Morna are hungry for power. Meanwhile, a mysterious war party roams the ‘Great Wild’ and a ruthless magician is intent on mur
Paperback, 280 pages
Published February 2014 by Irish Imbas Books (first published January 26th 2014)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:

In 192 A.D., Muirne Muncháem, a young and very pregnant woman, travels alone through the wilds of ancient Ireland, seeking a sanctuary for herself and her unborn child at Ráth Bládhma. Three years before, a young druidess, Bodhmhall, had left her clan with six other people, including her lover, the woman warrior Liath Luachra. Since then they’ve been living in a hidden, secluded valley, creating a pleasant, if very small, community. Their peace is
Mark Lawrence
I haven't read this book (yet), but it is one of the 10 finalists in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. That's 10 out of 300 hopefuls!

Read about the competition here

See ratings and reviews of all the finalists here:
Laura Hughes
Second century Ireland is cold, dirty, brutal and ugly, and its inhabitants’ moment-to-moment fight for survival even more so. Here, O'Sullivan blends legend and realism to create a tense, tightly-contained narrative featuring just two PoV characters. Bodhmhall is the spiritual leader of the community at Ráth Bládhma; as such she faces constant doubt and a ceaseless barrage of difficult decisions. Liath Luachra is a skilled warrior, but she’s haunted by dark memories and is far from invincible.

Julia Sarene
This one took me long, for a book as short as this.
I have a bit mixed feelings about it - I loved the setting and the background information about living in old Ireland! (Though I will never understand why "strange words", or in this case Gaelic words, are printed in italics in books... For me that always alienates the words, instead of learning them, and then being just a natural part of the world.) Reading about how people spent their lives way back was one of the major hooks for me.

This book
Lynn K : Grimmedian
Stunning action filled historical fantasy based deeply in Celtic myth.

From the first chapter, this tale will captivate readers. These ancient times in Ireland were brutal and O’Sullivan pulls no punches showing us of the savagery of the land and the harshness of the life of these people. Alongside this he manages to illuminate the beauty of the Great Wild, and the deep bonds of family, loyalty, and friendship. The Defence of Rath Bladhma is a tale of survival of simple farmers against savage for
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(There's a bigger, prettier version of this review here, on my blog.)

Firstly, I'm going to straight-up apologize in advance for when I almost definitely spell any Irish words or names wrong here. I'm making sure I extra double check, but since I manage to fuck up the English language pretty fantastically on any given day, I can only imagine what I'll do to an entirely different one.

Irish is one of those languages that is really difficult to grasp for native English speakers who have had no real
Travis Peck
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book with fantastic characters and just the right amount of history thrown in. I had difficulty with the names (I made the egregious error of not looking up how to pronounce them until about halfway through) and now Bodhmhall will forever be known as "Bottomhall" (Sorry!).

There is plenty of action in this one and some fantastical elements that fit in perfectly with setting without being overly powerful.

Anyway, I'd recommend this book to anyone whether or not you have an interest in Irish h
Braon Beag
Oct 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I started reading this book. I've always been a fan of the Fianna stories but most of the books on this subject I've read have been quite academic. From the first few pages, however, it was obvious that Fionn: Defence of Rath Bladhma was a much more gritty and realistic version than any I've read before.

There's lots of action, chases through the forests, a siege and smatterings of fantasy (although the author has wisely kept these at a minimum). It's also
Anne O'Connor
Mar 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this book after reading an earlier book by the same author and although this adventure (set in second-century Ireland) is very different, its still a great read.

The story is a modern take on the ancient Irish tale "The Boyhood Adventures of Fionn", but it focuses very much on the initial stages of that particular tale. Fionn, himself, only appears as a newborn baby but his absence is more than made up for by the presence of two very strong female characters (the woman warrior Liath Luach
Julie Bird
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great story, well done!
Lynn Williams
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this as one of the finalists for the SPFBO - and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Donna Mc Cabe
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fionn Mac Cumhaill Series.

I have just finished 'Fionnn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma, it's a fantastic book set in Ireland in 998 AD. It's the most realistic book I've read about early Ireland. I would highly recommend this book. Keep them coming Brian O'Sullivan, I'm going to start book 2 now.
Nat Murphy
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'll repeat that.
I picked this indie author book up just by chance and wasn't really expecting much but it actually distracted me from reading anther book I was devouring at the time (Joe Abecrombie's Red Country - also great!). I ended up finishing this book first.

Back in Ireland in 192 AD (not sure if the date is relevant), a tiny and very isolated settlement reluctantly offers sanctuary to an unexpected and very heavily pregnant refugee. As a result of this kindness, they end up thre
Heather Henkel
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great story

This is an incredible story. It took a bit to get used to the speech patterns and language but it was well worth it!
Ria Bridges
I’ve read a couple of different stories now about this legendary hero, whose name goes through a different spelling just about every time (Fionn mac Cumhaill, Finn MacCool, it’s all good…) Every story puts their own twist on the tale, whether going for accurate retelling or modern interpretation, and honestly, this is something that can make a story straddle that fine line between fresh and stale. You can only hear the same story told so many times, however many little differences there might be ...more
Timothy Brannan
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"'I am An Cailleach Dhubh,' Bodhmhall replied cynically 'No secret is unknown to me.'"
- Bodhmhall, Bandroai of Ráth Bládhma

Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma: The Fionn mac Cumhaill Series: Book One by Brian O'Sullivan

In this Part 1 of the story of Fionn mac Cumhaill, also known as Finn MacCool, the titular character barely makes an appearance. He is there, yes, and all the events of the story are centered around him and his mother, but he is not the hero of this tale.
The heroes are the Bandroai (or
Peter Buckmaster
Mar 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mythology
I lost myself in this book. And I mean that in a good way - I really lost track of the real world and was there in the middle of the wilderness of Iron Age Ireland. This is the third of Brian O'Sullivan's books I have read, and "immersive" is certainly one word I would use to describe them. I felt the cold, could smell the broth, see the mist and hear the silence (you'll understand when you get to that scene). You're right there with the characters and that makes their peril, their struggles and ...more
Rosie Amber
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fionn Defence Of Ráth Bládhma book #1 is a novel set in Ireland in 192 AD. Based on narratives from the Fenian Cycle, this book is one author’s interpretation of the days surrounding the birth of Irish legend Fionn mac Cumhaill.

For those, like me, who are new to this great myth, the basic story is about Muirne Muncháem, fleeing for safety; heavily pregnant, she asks for refuge from her sister-in-law, druidess Bodhmhall. The babe has an ethereal shining spirit which is brighter than Bodhmhall has
Fiona Ní
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are story tellers and there's great storytellers!
O'Sullivan fits the latter category and I'd have him up there with the greats like Tolkien, Goodkind, Sanderson, Martin.
Reaching into our Irish mythology and legends this author has used ancient text to inform his story line and I am hooked not just for the story but to be able to see our old Irish place names and language and getting an imagery of the landscape through the written word is like falling back into my own childhood when we pla
Fiona Hurley
This is not really a story about Fionn MacCumhaill*, legendary Irish hero of the Fenian cycle. All he does in this book is be born, cry a lot, and provide a motivation for his mother to be hunted. It is instead the story of his aunt, the druidess Bodhmhall, and her lover, the warrior Liath Luachra. But that's more than OK, because these two women** are the best. Bodhmhall is a leader and a healer, Liath Luachra is tough as leather, and as guardians go, baby Fionn could do a lot worse.
It's fast-
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As someone with a keen interest in mythology, especially Irish, I was intrigued by this novel which begins with Fionn’s heavily-pregnant mother seeking refuge at the small fort of Rath Bladhma. There is a sense of time and place which gets you right into the story. The description of the Great Wild makes it seem like a character in itself, not malicious but certainly not forgiving. The picture of domestic life in the Rath doesn’t pull any punches on the less glamorous side of the iron age, and t ...more
Yvette Tillema
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
excellent, I have read of these characters in Lady Gregory's Complete Irish Mythology and Ancient Irish tales by Cross and Slover. The big difference is I have to read the mythology books with James MacKillops Dictionary of Celtic Mythology in conjunction. This book brings alive two famous female warrior/druids and the tale of the coming of Finn, one of Irelands greatest heroes without aching brain. More like the tale without the study. If you have any interest in the ancient tales of Ireland an ...more
Agnes Conway
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book surprised me, in a good way. Not one I'd have been attracted to, normally, I bought it only because it was a finalist in the Self-published fantasy blog off SPFBO Very good story, good characters, good action. I'm half-way through the next in the series, so it's really gripped me. It's an exciting read, and I bonded with the characters. ...more
Dec 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was quite captivated by this story and read it quickly. I found myself thinking of the people in it when I wasn't reading, which for me, is the sign of a great book. I was a bit disappointed in the ending, because it was very abrupt. It's not a cliffhanger, but we're still left with plenty of questions. However, I do not feel compelled to continue with the next book. ...more
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gathered momentum

The start was a bit rough, but by the end I could not put it down. The battle for the Ráth was incredible and intense. The feint drawing some of the attackers inspired bordering on insanity. Fun read.
Sondra Stark
May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enthralling adventures

Characters are well drawn and engaging. The descriptions are so well done you can feel yourself there. The battles are well described and you hold your breath hoping for the best. You feel the pain of their losses. All in all a great story.
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well written page turner if you like this genre of books. Will definitely try a few more by this author. Reminiscent of some of David Gemmell’s work.
Good, but I finally just scanned the last 60 pages. I was tired of the fight scenes. They didn’t keep my interest.
wayne mcauliffe
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
He writes a good story.
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Brian O'Sullivan was born in county Cork, Ireland. On completing a degree at University College Cork, he went on to travel extensively. He is now based in New Zealand with his family but returns to Ireland on a regular basis.

Brian writes fiction that incorporates strong elements of Irish culture, language, history and mythology. These include literary short stories (The Irish Muse collection), my

Other books in the series

Fionn mac Cumhaill (4 books)
  • Fionn: Traitor of Dún Baoiscne (Fionn mac Cumhaill, #2)
  • Fionn: The Adversary (Fionn mac Cumhaill, #3)
  • Fionn: Stranger at Mullán Bán (Fionn mac Cumhaill #4)

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