The Book of Kells [NOOK Book]


An unusual and original work of fantasy from the acclaimed author of Tea with the Black Dragon.

A contemporary man, John Thornburn (a meek, nonviolent, and unpredictable artist) and woman, Derval (his tough, confrontational, strong, and warrior-like lover) time travel to ancient Ireland to avenge a Viking attack. Packed with fascinating details of historical time and place in Irish history and delicately balanced on the border between ...
See more details below
The Book of Kells

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$5.49 price
(Save 8%)$5.99 List Price


An unusual and original work of fantasy from the acclaimed author of Tea with the Black Dragon.

A contemporary man, John Thornburn (a meek, nonviolent, and unpredictable artist) and woman, Derval (his tough, confrontational, strong, and warrior-like lover) time travel to ancient Ireland to avenge a Viking attack. Packed with fascinating details of historical time and place in Irish history and delicately balanced on the border between realism and fantasy, the story centers around one of the most famous and beautiful illuminated manuscripts in history, the legendary but entirely real Book of Kells. Celtic history blends with magical fantasy for a strange and immersive tale of adventure.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781497602854
  • Publisher: Open Road Media
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 364
  • Sales rank: 522,865
  • File size: 735 KB

Meet the Author

R. A. MacAvoy is a highly acclaimed author of imaginative and original science fiction and fantasy novels. Her debut novel, Tea with the Black Dragon, won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. She has also written the Damiano trilogy, the chronicles of a wizard’s young son, set during an alternate history version of the Italian Renaissance; The Book of Kells; and Twisting the Rope, the highly acclaimed sequel to Tea with the Black Dragon. She is also the author of the beloved and much-praised Lens of the World trilogy.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt


It was an hour for bog colors: the close of the workday in the Bog of Allen. The boy-os working the Bord na Mona mechanized turf cutters were just beginning to put their shirts back on in the sea wind of early evening. That wind was cool and saline and it drove forty miles in from the shore.

They had gotten low in this particular deposit, cut deeply today, and even the men on the machines thought that a pity.

Some parts of this bog, the greatest in the world, were now stripped to the rock. The demands of industry, the world market, and the new power plants had done more damage in a decade than the frugal spades of the Irish had done in thousands of years. With no chance for the sphagnum beds to regenerate, biologists warned, it would be gone in a generation.

Fine traditions would go with it. The seasonal work of "winning the turf" in great teams of family and neighbors. Heavy men's work with the long peat slans. And then women's and children's work: the stacking and drying. The ceilis afterward.

Missed above all would be that scent which is enjoyed even in the cities, in hearths or modern stoves. The scent of the peat as it made its slow, even, nearly smokeless flame: it was the age-old smell of comfort and crachon--conviviality. The smell of home.

Surely something beautiful would be gone out of the world. Besides the value they serve as producers of fuel, bogs are wonderful, mysterious places. Sometimes dangerous, they always hold secrets. Wild, eerie, with their outcroppings of rocks, their coffee-colored dim pools, their heather, gorse, and bog willow, thick with birds of all kinds, a bog is a fit place of concealmentfor a fugitive, a treasure, or a whisky still.

But the bogs shift. Old people can tell you about that, for their changes can occur within one lifetime. Sometimes things hidden in them will disappear. And reappear, far removed in time and place.

The chemistry of the turf does strange things. It colors and preserves. Occasionally a farmer, lifting his winter fuel in summer, will come upon a sealed bucket of long-forgotten workmanship, filled with what once had been butter, stored in the cool moss long ago. This dark grease is found to be wonderful for skin complaints, lubricating axles, and for healing the roughened udders of cows.

Roots of the red bog oak and sally will come up too. If set aside and slowly dried out, the dark wood is good for any construction that requires great streangth and resiliency. It can be made into a "creepy" stool, or a flour cist, or even (in the old days) the belly of a harp.

But every so often something appears in a bog that makes people cross themselves and go for the priest or policeman. Bodies appear occasionally. Generally, the corpse is found to be some poor fellow who twenty or even two hundred years ago got lost and was drowned for his trouble. But these finds are uncanny as well as disturbing; however old they are, the lost child of fifty years ago or the ancient sacrifice to Crom Duv of twenty-five centuries ago, they are recognizable--as intact as if they had died yesterday.

The National Museum has gained greatly from these finds. And since the Bog of Allen was first exploited technologically, it has yielded hundreds of artifacts to enrich the collective memory of the Irish people. Wooden things, vessels of all kinds, carvings, votive objects, jewelry. Ancient livestock and wild creatures. Textiles, dresses, cloaks, shoes, belts, often left deliberately in the peat by their original owners to get a fine, brown color from the chemistry of the bog, and then lost in the deep, slow currents.

Now and then things turn up which have clearly been "killed" there: objects thrown in to hide them forever. Sacred things of the old church and of paganism hated by Protestant iconoclasts or the Catholic Jansenist priesthood, these were often broken and drowned, to kill them doubly.

It had been an overcast, heavy day: warm and humid. But with the wind from the sea, the gray clouds were lifted along the horizon like a blanket, and the westering sun streamed under it, turning earth and cloud golden, deepest brown and rose.

Smasher Burke loved it like this. The changing mood of the place was one of the things that made this an interesting job. Riding like a king in a machine that took him three minutes to climb on or off, he saw everything.

The only disadvantage was the noise. The racket from the rows of blades that neatly cut the peat into briquettes was deafening, as was that of the belts that carried them to the receiver.

He lit up a fag and stuffed the packet of Silk Cut into his pocket. And then he heard it. A subtle change in the sound of the machine, followed by a grinding.

He instantly switched off the blades and brought her to a halt. As he climbed down from the cab, McWilliams, his partner, was already at the blades, trying to free them with a crowbar.

"Ya fucking bastard, ya!

"It's no good! Smasher, it's jammed. No good at all."

Burke's Wellies slowly squashed across the peat and around the cutter beams.

"It's a great fucking stone, Smasher." McWilliams squinted, the golden light picking out his yellow broken front teeth. "You'll have to back her up a bit."

"Right," Burke answered him, and clambered back on. "Stand away, will you," he shouted, impersonally as a bus conductor. Then he kicked her in, lifting the blades and rolling her five feet to the rear.

"Good enough, man," McWilliams bellowed. "Fucking great."

Within five minutes it had spread all through the crew that the Smasher had turned up a carving. An archaeologist from the museum had been called, but before he could get there it was fully dug out and examined by the men.

"When I heard the crunch I knew it was no ordinary lump of rubbish," McWilliams said proudly. "Look at her, will you? Look at that! It must be thousands of years old."

"It's a cross, man," Burke countered quietly. "It's not thousands. Couldn't be thousands."

It was old, though. Anyone could see that. Spirals. Spirals all over.

"Look there. Yer woman in the middle, with her little cunt stuck up, just as shameless!" McWilliams laughed nervously.

Burke had bent down to examine it more closely. Following it with his finger, he had discovered that the spirals--hundreds of them--seemed to be made from a single line.

"It doesn't look Christian," McWilliams stated.

The Smasher didn't answer.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2013

    Marvelous book!

    This is a fine fantasy by one of the field's greats, and should be better known. So many of us dream of entering into another world through books-- this reminds us to be careful what we wish for (but to keep wishing for it!).

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    A fun tale

    It reads more like a history lesson in places, but is still an excellent read. I would recommend this to anyone that is looking for a fun Irish story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)