9) The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea.
Feeling ill and otherwise shattered, I’ve finally read this neglected classic. On my web page of Irish sf and fantasy I have catalogued a large number of Celtic legends retold for adults, some of which I have actually bought if I found them in cheap enough second hand paperback editions. They are all really crap. I don’t think I’ve read a good retelling of Cuchulainn since Rosemary Sutcliff, or in fairness Lady Gregory. And the efforts of non-Irish writiers to paint a realistic portrait of Ireland in any era, heroic or present day, are usually just embarrassing.
The Hounds of the Morrigan is several orders of magnitude better than any of these. The genre of children swept into a parallel world where they will make a crucial contribution in the supernatural battle between good and evil is an honorable and occasionally cliched one (I’m thinking especially of E. Nesbit and Alan Garner here). But O’Shea catches the voice of Ireland accurately and sympathetically, and as well as the main story, which depends completely on the structures of Celtic mythology, I caught references to James Stephens’ The Crock of Gold, Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman and rather to my surprise (perhaps I was imagining it) Eric Cross’ banned classic The Tailor and Ansty.
The book is perhaps a bit longer than it needed to be, and as with many quest narratives one does end up wondering why they had to go the long way around (the most recent Harry Potter is a particularly good example of this). But I’d have thought any literate and patient eight-year-old would find it very rewarding. In my current state of general debilitation, I certainly did.