Pat McDermott’s “Glancing through the Glimmer” is an absolute delight. I was something of a novice as a reader of this style of book, a fantasy virgin you might say, but my better half who runs this blog persuaded me to try it. I didn’t know quite what to expect. In fact it’s a wonderfully grounded mix of the real world and the fairy domains which exist just below it. It’s set in Ireland, and even the real world though completely plausible is counterfactual. What if the dynasty of Brian Boru, victor in battle against the Vikings at Clontarf in 1014, still ruled Ireland as a modern day monarchy not unlike the Windsors on the adjacent island.
The Borus continue to represent Celtic Ireland but even the Celts were Iron Age newcomers. The fairies were well entrenched when the first Brian’s ancestors arrived in Ireland and they had lived together sometimes in harmony, sometimes fractiously, until the fairies were driven underground. It’s up to the reader how s/he views them whether as other worldly beings or as the indigenous peoples of Ireland, but it’s not worth spending too much time on that. Just enjoy Pat McDermott’s excellent narrative drive and lush and lavish descriptions of Ireland’s coasts and castles, Dublin’s streets and shops, and the exotic accoutrements of the present day Boru clan.
The protagonist is an American girl called Janet who has been orphaned and has had to rely on her grandparents. They too move in gilded circles- Gramp is the new US ambassador to Ireland, to the Court of King Brian the present. His son, Liam, is a modern young man who enjoys roaring around Dublin with cousin Kevin. He accidentally bumps (literally) into Janet, and friendship and nascent love grows between them. But neither knows who the other is- they are just ordinary kids around town. But they skate on thin ground- literally again. The Thin Ground is where the fairy kingdom is nearest to the above-ground Boru monarchs. Janet slips away into the fairy world below where Finnvara, King of the Fairies, fancies a bit of human totty for a change. The fairies are getting old and though Oona, his lady-love down there, can be a looker herself it’s all a bit of an effort when you’re a few hundred years old.
Can Liam rescue Janet from the world of the fairies, or will he too be ensnared by their spells, and rendered powerless? And Janet misunderstands Liam’s role in the situation and turns against him. The Boru clan as a whole face a new confrontation with the fairy people. There is so much at stake.
Pat McDermott skilfully weaves the tales together with a number of exciting set pieces. This is assured writing that carries the reader with it. Pat McDermott should be very proud of herself.
By Ian Craine