There are three ways for a book to hold my attention. The first is to deliver characters in whom I want to invest my time. If I care about the people in the book I want to find out what happens in the end. In his first novel Michael K. Reynolds delivers characters who held my attention from start to finish.
Part one of the Heirs of Ireland series, Flight of the Earls takes us back to 1846. Ireland is in the second year of a famine which would last until 1849, during which the nation would see crop failures caused by Phytophthora infestans. Once thought to be a form of mold the recently reclassified organism is, under the right conditions, capable of destroying an entire field of potatoes or tomatoes in a matter of days. Its assault on Irish potato crops caused a million people to die of starvation. Another million would migrate to America in hopes of finding work. Reynolds introduces us to the Hanley family just as they begin to suffer the effects of the Great Potato Famine.
The blight has just started to affect the Hanley fields, yet another burden weighing on the family. The decision is made to send daughter Clare and son Seamus to follow their older sister’s path to America. The plan was for the two to send money home to keep the family afloat until the end of the famine. Through their eyes we experience the difficult journey made by many past immigrants. We see a side of immigration which is rarely ever spoken of, obstacles and plot twists which beg us to ask if the journey was worth the effort. From the potato fields of Ireland to the streets of New York Mr. Reynolds weaves a story that is as compelling as the characters he uses to take us back in history.
As the first of a series this book leaves me wanting more but I must wait until July for book two. I suspect the continuation of the story will be well worth the wait. If you love learning about the past or if you just love a good story you will find Flight of the Earls well worth your time.
For more on Flight of the Earls and the Heirs of Ireland series see michaelkreynolds.com. Follow Michael K. Reynolds on twitter: @M_K_Reynolds.