The Swan Maiden
Jules Watson
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Buy *The Swan Maiden* by Jules Watson

The Swan Maiden
Jules Watson
560 pages
February 2009
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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The Swan Maiden is a Celtic legend of renown, a tale of a forbidden love, knights in shining armor and all their glory, greed and lust centered on a single woman who is destined to bring kingdoms and rulers to ultimate destruction, and druid magic that is at once blessing and curse. Deirdre, the swan maiden, a girl of eighteen who has lived her life secluded in the forest by the king’s command, longs for freedom above all else. Her druid teacher has illegally trained her in the magic and ways of the druid priestesses so that her astral spirit might experience freedom among the animals and birds while her body remains in forced solitary confinement by the king. Deirdre has learned all there is to know of herb lore, druidic prayers and chants, the otherworld and its spirits, common household duties, and a good many things a maiden such as herself should not know. But when the King’s annual visit brings the realization of his desire for her, Deirdre makes the choice to go against his command and unlawful betrothal to her and run for her life.

The sons of Usnech - Naisi, Ardan, and Ainnle - are all strong, beautiful warriors with dark hair and similar builds and features. Alone, each is a formidable foe; together, the form an impenetrable wall of warriors. Their bonds to one another are unlike any other. Where one goes, the others follow. Their feats in battle as warriors of the Red Branch have won them ballads of praise to their honor and glory, but for all their successes, the king and Naisi seem like a pair of circling alpha wolves preparing to spring at any moment.

Deirdre knows nothing of the king’s lands or his people, but she has learned all the ballads of his kingdom in preparation for becoming queen. The ballad of the sons of Usnech is her favorite, and she can hardly believe her eyes when she comes upon the three men in her forest. This is the opportunity she has been waiting for, and the sons of Usnech are definitely the honorable type of men to aid her in her escape. Had they known who she was… One wonders if the story would have ever gotten farther.

With Deirdre’s flight and recognition of the aid that the sons of Usnech have given her, the king’s anger, lust and greed becomes like a quick-killing poison branching out from him and seeping into his kingdom. Honor is not a trait known to the king; as his greed sets Red Branch warriors against each other, his home front begins to weaken. Enemies of great consequence are ignored as the king sends vast numbers after the sons of Usnech and Deirdre. Somehow they manage to evade the trackers, but when the needless death of a Red Branch warrior is unavoidable, the four fugitives know they must cross oceans to another land to find peace.

All along, Deirdre knows peace will not be forever. As a love of unwavering purity develops between she and Naisi, still there exists a hole in his soul that desperately needs the life of a warrior, the life of the Red Branch which he and his brothers have lost. Turmoil and desire for success drive the brothers to serve the king of a new land, leaving Deirdre alone and lost for weeks and months at a time. With the passing of time, love continues to stand strong, but the greed and lust of powerful men for the amazing Deirdre drives the four fugitives again from their home into dangers they cannot escape. If only they could find contentment and a life that knows no war or desires for great victories.

This novel is perhaps the most addictive and unforgettable of any love stories to grace bookshelves in too many years to count. Celtic legend has always been rife with fantastic and magical stories, sources of inspirations for new authors. Watson claims the throne with her reincarnation of a mythic legend. Be prepared with a large box of Kleenex, munchies, and a quiet secluded reading place to lose yourself in the world of The Swan Maiden.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Sonia R. Polinsky, 2009

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