The legend of O’Carolan and the much more mundane reality Edward inhabits are equally entertaining. O’Carolan engages in a wild, lawless hurling match and elaborate pranks; Hugh plies Edward with whiskey and tries to set him up in an implausible romance with his granddaughter, Cait. Hugh’s account of O’Carolan’s life leaves room for readers to draw their own conclusions about whether his encounters with the Good People (“a fearsome warlike race of immortal beings,” not like “twee” English fairies) were real or dreams induced by a smallpox-related fever.
Although Hugh is presented as a knowledgeable narrator of O’Carolan’s life, this novel is clearly intended more as a celebration of music, adventure, and Irish culture than an attempt to peel away the many mysteries surrounding the real-life O’Carolan’s travels and compositions. References to events such as the Battle of the Boyne provide a clear grounding point, but the heart of the story is a celebration of of the traditional Irish harpist’s role and grief over its decline, which Hugh blames on the exile of the Irish aristocracy, poverty, and the rising popularity of European musical forms and artists. Mór’s tale is as whimsical as it is rich in historical detail.
Takeaway: This uproarious interweaving of harper Turlough O’Carolan’s life and compositions with late-18th-century plotting and shenanigans will delight anyone interested in Irish history, music, and lore.
Great for fans of Frank Delaney’s Ireland, Declan Kiberd’s Inventing Ireland.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: B
King of the Blind is a different read for me. It was refreshing to read something new and unique. I loved and admired the character of Turlough O’Carolan. His strength and determination is inspiring. I find this musical tale to be entertaining, beautiful and magical.
I give King of the Blind five stars and I highly recommend it. Especially, for readers who love historical fiction set in seventeenth century Ireland. I enjoyed it a lot.
I read this book on paperback when it was first released & I loved it. This uncensored rewrite blew my mind! I consumed it frantically, like a woman starved of the esoteric & historical truths of my distant Celtic heritage. Thank God for Caiseal Mor.
Belinda marino, Victoria, Australia
In an author’s note, at book’s beginning, Caiseal tenders the flavor of this refreshing novel – ‘It is said our lives on this Earth are brief and filled with insufferable anguish. But there’s a way to avoid all the trials and tribulations of mortal existence. Those who know this secret are always merry and forever blessed with good fortune. They are well-loved and welcomed. A very wise old man once told me if you carry a pocketful of this magic ingredient with you, you’ll never go hungry and you’ll never want for laughter, music and good company. The secret that unlocks all these wonders is a simple one. Gratitude. This is the story of a man who learned how to be grateful.’
In a lilting, musical manner Caiseal relates the history of not only one of Ireland’s great heroes of music, but also a taste of the world as it played in the seventeenth century, and in doing so invites the reader on a memorable historical journey.
Though the book is lengthy, the writing is so inviting that the pages fly by. Pure pleasure to read and experience, this is a novel rich in atmosphere and music – and gratitude! Recommended. Grady Harp, October 19
KING OF THE BLIND is a highly entertaining tale–part memoir, part historical fantasy–which welcomes readers into a bygone era of music and magic, a world of good friends and whiskey, where the loss of sight becomes the gain of so much more.
Young Edward Sutler, on the run from the Redcoats for murder, finds a safe haven in the home of the centenarian, Hugh Connor. While plying the young man with copious amounts of whiskey from his fireside seat, Hugh regales his listeners with the story of his erstwhile master, Turlough O’Carolan, considered by many to be Ireland’s greatest harper. Struck blind by smallpox in his youth during the 17th century, the harper changed his fortune by mastering a craft that welcomed him into the homes of nobles and peasants alike, playing true Irish tunes he claimed were inspired by the Good Folk.
From the moment Edward pulls the trigger until the end of old Hugh’s reminiscence, the reader is swept along on a journey that is as entertaining as it is well-crafted. The fantastical elements and the appearance of the Good People at certain key points in the story are enough to keep fantasy readers satisfied, while painting a picture of the political upheaval and the struggles of the Irish common folk during the 16th and 17th centuries that lovers of historical fiction would also enjoy.
Turlough and Carolan are both amusing characters, and the banter by the fireside in old Hugh’s house immediately draws the reader in and makes them feel as if they are there too, sipping on a whiskey, listening to an old man tell his life’s story. Although the author does an incredible job of setting the atmosphere of the time and of Carolan’s performances, one wishes the novel could be accompanied by a CD to listen to while reading. To hear SheeBeg SheeMor while Carolan performs it in the novel, or Carolan’s Concerto, or King of the Blind, would have been the ultimate reading experience. Overall, it's a fantastic reading experience!