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Monthly Book Reads > June Young Adult Book 2013 Discussion: The Lost Legend of Finn by Mary Tannen

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message 1: by Ronyell (new)

Ronyell (rabbitearsblog) | 492 comments Mod
Hello everyone! This month's winner for the June monthly young adult read is The Lost Legend of Finn by Mary Tannen by Mary Tannen. Please feel free to discuss about what you loved or hated about this book!


message 2: by Manybooks (last edited Jun 01, 2013 05:22AM) (new)

Manybooks For those who are planning to read The Lost Legend of Finn, if you also have a chance to read the first novel, The Wizard Children of Finn, I would strongly suggest that you do so (it will answer some of the questions etc. of the second novel and it is also a slightly better novel in and of itself). Both are quite wonderful!!

In the sequel to The Wizard Children of Finn, The Lost Legend of Finn has Fiona and Bran McCool again traveling back in time to ancient Ireland, this time to hopefully find information and answers regarding their mysterious father. However, Bran's magic goes a bit awry, and instead of traveling back to the ancient Ireland of 2000 years ago (which they had wanted to do, where their friend Finn is leader of the Fianna), they end up in early Mediaeval Ireland, a Christian Ireland being threatened by Viking invaders from the pagan north. An ancient (and perhaps timeless and everlasting) druid named Biddy Gwynn transforms Bran and Fiona into ravens, sending them into a lost chapter of the Legend of Finn. Within the story, the legend, Fiona and Bran again encounter their friend Finn (but only as raven observers, he is unaware of their presence). However, much to their consternation, they also encounter their own mother (Sadie), as Sabdh, one of the Everlasting Ones, in the form of a red deer. Sabdh, who is being pursued by Fear Doriche, the Dark Druid of the Men of Dea, places herself under Finn's protection (under his protection, she no longer has to be a deer), actually marrying him, and Bran and Fiona realise in astonishment that their friend Finn (from their previous adventures in ancient Ireland) is much more closely connected to them than they ever would have guessed.

The Lost Legend of Finn is again an enaging and exciting romp through ancient Ireland, with for the most part well conceptualised and realistically portrayed characters. Especially Fiona has come into her own; I felt very close to her and I also loved the character of Legaire (I was really saddened when he was killed during the Viking raid on the monastery). Bran, on the other hand, I liked much better in The Wizard Children of Finn. In this book, he has become rather egotistical, seemingly mostly caring about his own wishes and desires (just consider how Bran constantly thinks of joining Finn in ancient Ireland, not giving any, or just scant thought to the fact that this would surely be very traumatic for his 20th century mother). I guess in many ways, Bran and Uncle Rupert are very similar in their attitudes, caring more about themselves, their ideals, projects and desires, not all that concerned, or even all that aware of the consequences that their actions have or might have on others, especially their families. Fiona, on the other hand, always seems be aware of the consequences that her actions, her thoughts, her words have or might have.

As much as I enjoyed The Lost Legend of Finn, I do think that the first book, The Wizard Children of Finn is slightly superior in both content and style. Even the first book had some leaps of logic, some aspects of the fantastical that just did not entirely make sense, even if one takes into account that the book is, indeed, a fantasy. However, in the first book, the leaps of logic are not all that distracting, and they are for the most part nicely balanced by the folkloric content. This only partially occurs in The Lost Legend of Finn. Not only are the leaps of logic more pronounced at times, but some of the folkloric content itself seems a bit problematic (and I am still trying to figure out how and why Sadie/Sabdh ended up in 20th century America, or wether it was actually the Sadie from the 20th century who went back in time to ancient Ireland and somehow became Sabdh, that is probably the leap of logic I found and still find the most difficult to understand, to explain to myself).

I am a bit of a folklore purist (and very interested in folklore, myths and legends), so of course, I attempted to research the folkloric elements I encountered in The Lost Legend of Finn on the internet. And this proved rather frustrating at first, as the author (Mary Tannen) had either accidentally or deliberately used a different spelling for both Fiona and Bran's mother (her name when she was a red deer and destined for the Dark Druid). In the novel, Sadie is called Sabdh and the Dark Druid of the Men of Dea is called Fear Doriche. I spent hours trying to unsuccessfully research these names on the internet, until I finally realised that Mary Tannen had made use of the legend of the birth of Finn's son Oisin (he is the son of Sadhbh and Finn, and Sadhbh was, indeed, pursued and later fell victim to the Dark Druid, Fer Doirch or Fear Doirche). By misspelling "Sadhbh" (Sabdh), but especially by misspelling "Fear Doirche" (Fear Doriche), Mary Tannen not only makes researching the folkloric background to the story more difficult, there is also a slight feeling, an impression of disrespect for Irish folklore and mythology present (at least in my opinion).

However, my GR friend Abigail has since pointed out that especially the spellings of ancient Irish names etc. are by no means consistent, and thus while I still find the different spellings encountered in the book rather frustrating, I can now see that these were likely not only not deliberate, but that they might actually not have been mistakes in the first place, just variations.

Stylistically, I think that The Lost Legend of Finn at times really shows that it is a book written and published in the early 80s. There are quite a number of instances where distinctly North American 80s slang and 80s expressions are used, and while in the first book (The Wizard Children of Finn), these expressions seem balanced and not over-used, in the sequel, it sometimes feels as though the author is going slightly overboard trying to show Fiona and Bran as typical 80s children (a few exclamations of "jerk" "bird-brain" and other such insults, expressions which I actually remember from high school, would have been great, and would have felt nostalgic, the over-use just dates the book, making the narrative style, the flow of the text feel old-fashioned and also rather exaggerated on occasion).

I did however, chuckle with nostalgic fondness and a feeling of being rather old, when Uncle Rupert mentions John Davidson's ABC television show That's Incredible (gosh, I actually used to watch that show when I was in high school). And in that case, Mary Tannen makes a very astute, profound observation. A time-traveling historian such as Uncle Rupert has become would very probably not have been accepted as legitimate and might very well have only gotten a place on a show like That's Incredible. His fellow academics would likely not have accepted him, would not have believed that Uncle Rupert had time-traveled, or could time-travel.

I would recommend The Lost Legend of Finn to children and adults interested in fantasies based on ancient Irish myth and folklore. And although some reviews I have read claim that The Lost Legend of Finn is a fine stand-alone book, I would say that in order to truly enjoy and understand The Lost Legend of Finn, you should really first read The Wizard Children of Finn (not only is it a slightly better story, but I believe that one does need the information, the plotline of the first book, in order to really understand and enjoy the sequel).


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