The Crow of Connemara

The Crow of Connemara

by Stephen Leigh

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Overview

The Crow of Connemara by Stephen Leigh

Set in Ireland and Chicago, The Crow of Connemara is the spellbinding tale of Colin Doyle, a young Irish-American musician drawn to his grandfather’s homeland.

Entranced by the music and legends of the island, gifted with his grandfather’s journal and a mysterious jewel, and bespelled by dreamlike images of a woman calling to him, Colin feels his inescapable destiny lies across the waters.

On the west coast of Ireland, in the Connemara region, the music is everything he hoped it would be, and the legends seem to come to life before his eyes. In the small town of Ballemor, Colin first encounters the woman of his dreams, Maeve Gallagher.

Maeve, a raven-haired beauty with eyes of emerald green, is the leader of a small group, the Oileánach, that has taken over the island of Inishcorr just off the coast and is making their stand against government officials determined to evict them. But Maeve and her followers are more than rebellious squatters—they are the living embodiment of ancient ways, of a time before mortals ruled the lands. And Inishcorr is their last hope for survival, their portal to the place they are meant to be.

But to open that portal, Maeve needs the willing assistance of her chose bard: Colin. Yet even as Colin falls under her enchantment, Maeve too must struggle against emotions she cannot afford to recognize. For to allow herself to truly care for Colin could spell the end of her people’s hopes, dreams, and very existence.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780756410773
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: 03/01/2016
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 785,603
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Stephen Leigh is a Cincinnati-based, award-winning author with nineteen science fiction novels and over forty short stories published. He has been a frequent contributor to the Hugo-nominated shared world series Wild Cards, edited by George R. R. Martin. He teaches creative writing at Northern Kentucky University. Stephen Leigh has written Immortal Muse, The Crow of Connemara, and the fantasy trilogy Assassin's Dawn. He can be found at farrelworlds.com.

Read an Excerpt

1

Death and the Sinner

Darcy Fitzgerald lay dying in the next room.

His family and friends were gathered in the small front room of Darcy’s farmhouse on Ceomhar Head, well outside the town of Ballemór in County Galway. Two and sometimes three of the group took brief turns sitting at Darcy’s bedside with the priest and Darcy’s sister Margaret Egan, who were holding vigil. The priest—Father Quinlan—had been sent for by Margaret; the truth was that, in living memory, no one could recall Darcy ever trudging into town of a Sunday to attend Mass, but Margaret had insisted that her own pastor come out and sit with her.

“Darcy’s been baptized, an’ so I’ll be having the Last Rites done proper for the repose of his poor soul,” she proclaimed. “The good Father will do them, too, or he won’t be seeing another pence of mine or m’family’s in the offering tray.”

Margaret, Father Quinlan, and the occasional friend sat in the stuffy bedroom: listening to Darcy’s labored, stuttered breathing and the muffled din of conversation from the other room. They talked quietly to each other over Darcy’s form under the blanket once quilted by his twelve-years-dead wife, occasionally glancing at the grizzled, sunken face on the pillow that was, in turn, staring blindly at the candlelit shadows gathering on the ceiling.

In the front room, the evening already had more the aspect of a wake. The dozen folk there had gone through two bottles of Jameson 12-year-old Special Reserve from Darcy’s cupboard (“Well, he won’t be a’needin’ the whiskey now, will he?”), and flasks were regularly being produced from back pockets and passed around. The air was murky with fragrant smoke from cigarettes, pipes, and the smoldering peat fire in the hearth, which didn’t seem to be drawing properly. Their voices were loud and boisterous, laughing as they related stories from Darcy’s past: purely fiction, embellished, or nakedly raw, they didn’t care. Someone had brought along a guitar and another a fiddle, and the stories and conversation intermingled with playing and singing.

Outside, a gale off the North Atlantic howled and shook the shutters and roof beams of the farmhouse. The door to the farmhouse rattled in its frame, causing those closest to glance toward it to check that the latch was still holding.

The door to Darcy’s bedroom opened. Margaret stood there with her white hair hanging limply around her face and a rosary clutched in her hand, Father Quinlan a dark presence behind her. The song failed in mid-phrase and the laughter shuddered to a halt. Margaret sniffed and wiped at her eyes. “Poor Darcy’s gone,” she stated simply. Several of those in the room made the sign of the cross at the news.

At the same moment, the shutters boomed and rattled, and the door visibly quivered with a sound as if wild fists were beating on the planks. “Sweet bleedin’ Jaysus!” one of the company shouted in alarm, then glanced guiltily at the priest. “Beggin’ your pardon a’course, Father.”

The door and shutters continued to rattle as the wind rose with a nearly human, furious shriek. The blue flames of the peat fire shuddered in a sudden downdraft that sent smoke pouring into the room. “What in heaven—” Margaret began as the gathering coughed and waved hands against the invasion, but a new voice interrupted her.

“’Tis yer fault, all of yez,” the voice said, and as one they looked over to the hearth from where the voice had emanated. A woman stood in front of the fire, and hers was a face that none of them knew. She was bundled in a hooded red cloak, the cloth beaded with rain as if she’d just come in from the weather, though no one could remember her entering the room. Her eyes were a deep, saturated green, and the strands of hair that escaped the cowl were the color of a moonless sky at midnight. Her voice was edged steel wrapped in dark velvet, low and sensual. “There be no door or window open here for the soul to depart through, as is customary. The spirits sent to accompany Darcy are angry.”

“Darcy’s soul ca’nah be kept from the Lord by doors or windows,” Father Quinlan interjected. He scowled. “This blather is simple superstition, woman. Shame on yeh.” Both he and Margaret glared at the intruder.

“Darcy Fitzgerald didn’t believe in yer foolish God, priest, so shut your gob,” the woman said, and half the company drew in their breath at the blasphemy. Several warded themselves again with the sign of the cross. “Darcy believed in things much older than that, and they’ve come for him now. Yeh must let him go. Why has no one stopped the clocks here or turned the mirrors?”

Again there came the sound of fists beating at the door, and the shutters were nearly pulled from their hinges. The wind shrieked in the chimney, and the guitar player, sitting on the hearth nearest the woman, looked at the fire, startled. “’Tis the very banshee,” he said, then glanced guiltily at the woman.

“Aye,” the woman in red answered. She was smiling strangely. “Open the door,” she commanded, gesturing to the men nearest to it.

“Nah,” Margaret shouted back. “There be no need for that. Darcy’s soul is already in heaven, and his body will be placed in consecrated ground.”

The cloaked woman laughed as fists continued to hammer at the planks, and she gestured once more. “Open the door,” she repeated. Her voice was imperious, commanding, and one of the men sitting next to the door rose to his feet, glancing at his wife who sat alongside him who, in turn,was staring at the woman.

Finally, the wife nodded, faintly, as if she and the woman had exchanged some unheard communication. “What can it hurt?” she half-whispered, though she kept her gaze averted from Margaret and the priest, who remained standing in the doorway of Darcy’s bedroom as if defending the corpse. Her husband lifted the latch and turned the knob, pulling at the door.

The door flew from his hands, slamming hard against the limits of its hinges as the mourners shouted in alarm. A hurricane wind as cold as a winter gravestone blew hard into the front room, snatching papers and napkins from the small table and hurling them about, extinguishing all the candles, sending the pictures on the wall swaying and falling, and toppling the empty bottles of Jameson. The few electric lights in the room—Darcy having been slow to have the lines run out to his farmstead—flickered and went momentarily dark. Only the faint, ethereal light of the peat fire remained, strangely untouched. The wind plucked at the coats and pants and skirts of those gathered there as if with invisible fingers, and tugged especially hard at the priest’s cassock, enough that they heard him cry out in the darkness. Then the wind abruptly reversed itself, rushing out from the house and slamming the door shut behind itself. Later, some of those in the room would swear they heard a man laughing in the midst of the retreating gale, and that the laughter was that of old Darcy himself.

The electric lights pulsed once and returned. The peat fire crackled contentedly as the gathering blinked and looked around. “That woman . . .” they heard Margaret say. “I swear that she . . .” and they all looked to where the woman had been.

But she had gone as suddenly as she’d come.

This time, it was the priest himself who made the sign of the cross.

2

A Dream, Vanishing

The Chicago weather promised to be a shock. Even in early May, the heat threatened to overwhelm the sweater Colin Doyle was wearing. He pushed his glasses back up his nose as he peered myopically at the crowd near the Arrivals gate.

His sister Jen waved at him as he emerged, rushing over to him after a moment’s hesitation. Her short hair was disheveled, as if she’d just hurriedly toweled it dry after a shower. She wore her smile in the same way she wore a business suit. When he hugged her, he heard the smile break and a sob escape. “How’s Dad?” Colin asked as he embraced Jen.

“No better,” she answered, sniffing as she stepped back. “Sorry. I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry when I saw you.”

“My face sometimes has that effect.”

That brought back the smile momentarily. “Silly as always. Good. I’ve missed that.” He saw her glance at the gig bag on his back, his Gibson J-45 safely ensconced within; she said nothing, but her lips tightened a bit, and he wondered if she were going to say something about it. “Let’s hit the baggage carousels and get home,” she said instead. “You’re sure you want to stay with me and not Mom? You know she’s expecting you at home, in your old room.”

“I’m certain she is. I’m just not sure that’s where I want to be.” Colin gave a shrug. He lifted his glasses and rubbed at his eyes. “Or is that going to be a problem with you and Aaron? You are still seeing him, aren’t you?”

Jen’s quick blush gave him the answer, and suggested more.

The first time he’d heard about Aaron had been last semester . . .

* * *

Last semester . . .

Colin slid into a booth at the Starbucks on University Way NE with a grande latte. He pulled out his phone, which claimed it was 6:32 in the morning—8:32 back in Chicago. He touched the link for his sister Jennifer. He heard the click of the connection, a long hiss of static, and finally a ring. A second ring. A third.

“Colin? Do you have any idea what time it is here?” Her voice was simultaneously sleepy and irritated.

“8:30, give or take a couple minutes.”

“Yeah, in the morning. Saturday morning.”

“I wanted to get you before you left the apartment.”

“It’s a cell phone, dear; you’d get me whether I was in the apartment or not. And on Saturday, ‘before I leave the apartment’ means, oh, somewhere before one in the afternoon. Maybe later. It’s Saturday, damn it.”

“You complain a lot. What happened to the ‘Don’t worry what time it is, little brother, just call me whenever you get a chance’ story you gave me when I left?”

He heard her yawn; a male voice muttered something indistinctly in the background. “My brother Colin in Seattle,” he heard Jennifer say. “Go back to sleep.”

“Oops,” he said. “Jen had company last night. Sorry. Anyone I should know?”

Colin thought he heard the sound of bare feet on hardwood; she’d left the bed. “Hah, you’re not in the least bit sorry, so don’t even try to apologize. And no, you don’t know him, and as to whether you will ever know him . . . well, that’s not decided yet. It probably depends a lot on when you come back here.” She yawned again, sounding a bit more awake, and he heard dishes clattering in the background: she’d moved to the kitchen.

“What would Mom and Dad say?”

“I’m not in the habit of discussing my sex life with them. And not with you either, little brother. Speaking of which, how’s yours? You know Mom’s half-terrified you’re going to bring home some young undergrad coed, probably from the Music department, with a grandchild already incubating in her belly.” Colin heard something liquid being poured, and Jen taking a cautious sip: coffee. He took a sip of his own before he answered.

“Not much chance of that at the moment, I’m afraid. I’m too damn busy. So who’s this paragon?”

“His name’s Aaron Goldman.”

“Aaron Goldman? He’s Jewish?”

“Yes.” He could almost see her eyebrows raising with the affirmation, as if in challenge.

“And how has that gone over with the parental units?”

Her sigh scratched at the speaker of the phone. “It’s not 1950 anymore, Colin. In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in a whole new century, and Irish Catholics marry Jews all the time now. They marry Latinos and African-Americans, too. Guys marry guys, women marry women. Or have you regressed back to another era since you went to the left coast? I thought things were more liberal out there.”

“Sure, all that goes on, just not in the Doyle family. Heck, I remember Tommy getting lots of grief back in high school for dating a Methodist. Somehow, I can’t see Dad letting his grandchild go to temple wearing a kippah.”

Another sigh rattled the speaker. “I’d like to point out that I’m neither married, pregnant, nor considering a conversion. And Mom said she thinks Aaron is very nice, thank you. Now, let’s talk about you, since you called . . .”
...They had, though he hadn’t told her then what he’d already been thinking.

“Hello?” he heard Jen saying now. “Earth to Colin.” Colin shook away the memory.

“Sorry,” he said. “Just not enough sleep. So Aaron’s still in the picture?”

“He is, but I do have an extra bed in my office at the apartment, and you can have that if you decide to stay with me instead of Mom.”

Colin nodded. “Good. I don’t think I slept more than a few hours last night. I’ll probably end up crashing pretty soon, and I’d rather do that at your place, if you don’t mind.”

“Not a problem for me, though it might be for Mom. But we can decide that later. Right now, let’s get you to the hospital. Everyone’s there.”

Colin lifted his chin in agreement and started walking down the corridor to where the signs pointed to the baggage area. “So . . . tell me about Dad,” he said as they walked. “He’s going to be all right, isn’t he?”

He saw her eyebrows raise at that, but he also saw her press her lips together again, as if to hold back the comment she wanted to make. “I’ll fill you in once we’re in the car . . .”

On the drive to the hospital, Jen told him that there’d been little change since the phone call he’d received the day before, and the changes that had occurred weren’t heartening. His father had been found collapsed on the floor of his downtown Loop office by one of the janitorial staff, after his mother became worried about him not answering his phone and called the building owners. No one knew how long he’d been down, unconscious and barely breathing. The doctors were saying it had been a massive coronary event, that their father had been too long without oxygen, that there’d been too much resultant brain damage, and that his body was failing. His kidneys had shut down; the circulation to his extremities was poor.

“They’re telling us it’s our decision to make. They can keep him on the vent and see if he improves, but . . .” Jen stopped, biting her lip. He saw her eyes filling with tears, and when she blinked, twin streaks rolled down her cheek. She took one hand from the wheel to wipe at them, almost angrily. Colin reached over to place his hand on her shoulder. He could feel her trembling underneath his touch.

“S’okay, Jen. I wish I’d been in town and able to get here sooner.”

“You’re here now,” she told him. “That’s all that matters. Mom and Tommy’ll be glad to see you.”

Colin wasn’t quite so certain of that, especially not given the news that at some point he had to relay to them—when the time was right, which it certainly wasn’t now, not with his father’s condition. That has to wait. There’ll be a moment soon enough.

He could only hope that was right. He sighed and laid his head back against the seat rest, watching the once-familiar landscape scroll by.

Home. At least it once had been. Somehow, it no longer felt that way.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Crow of Connemara"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Stephen Leigh.
Excerpted by permission of DAW.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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"Mythology, alchemy and fantasy all coalesce in Leigh's Immortal Muse, creating the perfect combination for readers looking for their next stellar read. Leigh has masterfully created a fantastical adventure for his audience...The alternating chapters of past and present will whet readers' appetites for more adventure and intrigue, and will leave them wanting more. The author weaves mythic history with a bit of action, murder and, of course, spice--and has this reader wondering why I'm only discovering him now. This is definitely a Top Pick! perfect for those craving a bit of intirgue and history." -- RT Reviews (Top Pick for Immortal Muse)

"Leigh seamlessly inserts his two immortals into history, playing with actual people and events to deliver beautifully-rendered glimpses of different eras. Leigh strikes the perfect balance between past and present, real and imagined." -- Publishers Weekly (for Immortal Muse)

Immortal Muse is an unforgettable tale that sweeps readers from 1300s Paris to modern-day New York.” – Risingshadow

 

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The Crow of Connemara 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Barb-TRC More than 1 year ago
The Crow of Connemara is a contemporary Irish fantasy, with Celtic lore, and Fae mythology. This story is a romance tragedy of modern day and old time myths. Colin Doyle is our hero, who is pressured by his family to get his degree, even though his only interest is his Celtic music, and desire to go to Ireland. Colin dreams of this Irish woman, who calls to him in his visions. When his father dies, Colin decides to follow his heart and go to Ireland. While joining other musicians playing his music in pubs, Colin with meet the woman of his dreams. Maeve Gallagher shows interest in Colin, but he finds the townsfolks do not like Maeve or her friends that live on the local island. The Oileanach’s are resented by the town, marked as outcasts, feared as witches. In a short time, Maeve and her friends are told they need to leave the island or they will be forced out. Maeve and Colin’s relationship grows slowly, and we the reader learn quickly that Maeve is indeed more than anyone knows. This is where the fae mythology involving all the members of the island, goes into more detail as to who they are, and what is Colin needed for. This is modern day contemporary story, with a romance that is doomed. I like Colin, but I thought that Maeve was a fascinating character. I enjoyed the mythology, and learning about them. I also love anything that takes place in Ireland. Stephen Leigh did a wonderful job doing the world building of this story, though it was a bit slow early on as we learned more about the Oileanach and the island. It was an exciting and interesting ending, leaving me wondering if there would be another book, or we are to use our imagination.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book I liked feeling like I was in Ireland among the old magic.  
JBronder More than 1 year ago
Colin Doyle wants nothing more than to play his Celtic music and visit Ireland. His family try to guide him into better choices but he finally decides to follow his dreams and go to Ireland. While there, he meets Maeve Gallagher. But Colin finds the locals don’t like Maeve or her friends, Oileanach’s they are called, that live on a local island. Colin throws the warnings to the wind and follow Maeve. But Maeve has a big secret, she is fae and as her relationship with Colin grows it’s going to end in tragedy. This is a great story. I loved the imagery. Colin loves Ireland and after trying to do what his parents tell him finally decides to follow his heart. I enjoyed all the mythology of Ireland and finding out more about the fae as we learn more about Maeve. I was hoping for a happy ending but this is a relationship that won’t work out. I did feel bad for Maeve because of this. Over all this is a good story and I would recommend it for those that like romance with some Irish mythology added in. I received The Crow of Connemara for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.