The Sons of Mil
If you are a fan of epics, Celtic myth, or simply good storytelling, The Sons of Mil, L.M. Riviere’s debut novel is a welcome outing. From a diverse group of characters, the author weaves a tale of complex politics, the brutal conditions in fictional Innisfail, treachery, and a quest for redemption. The story opens with an act of opportunism and pride that heralds disaster. The killing of a white stag, an animal sacred to the Sidhe, establishes the theme of bearing the consequences of actions driven by pride. The opening also establishes the tension between the Sidhe and the human, Milesian, population.
From there we follow Ben Maeden, one of the hunters on the ill-fated trespass, as he is forced to abandon his home for his failures to protect another hunter. With a series of encounters, we learn more and more of Ben’s history as the layers of his disguise are literally and figuratively stripped away.
Ben’s central relationship forms with a young woman, Una. Una is a pawn who is both powerful and powerless. She makes for an interesting counterpoint to Ben’s discoveries about himself as she joins him on his journey.
Innisfail is fleshed out from the bones of Celtic mythology. If the reader is enchanted by the stories of the Sidhe, the Ard Ri, and Tara, they won’t be disappointed with a stroll through this detailed and complex world.
The storytelling is fast-paced and moves along well. The only place I found myself wanting faster development was in the characters themselves. But, there is a delicate ballet of revealing and concealing at play between the two main actors which would be spoiled by rushing it.
Only one point feels misplaced in the story. There are repeated references to ‘the Transition.’ Those references hint at a time before Innisfail. The setup makes me wonder if we are somehow sitting in a fantasy story set on top of a dystopian future base. If this is the case, it would make the scientific terms that arise in the prose and the conversation easier to accept. This one piece of the story is like a pulled stitch on a sweater. It needs to be smoothed into place.
Like many first novels in a series, and there is more I hear, The Sons of Mil is overfilled with leads to develop. They are tempting, but at the same time, it leaves the story with a somewhat unresolved feeling to the ending. Lots of little ‘what ifs’ are left lurking in the reader’s mind. But, there is a wee point of great satisfaction as we see how Ben Maeden has broken free of his past.