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Maureen Pierce works the night shift in a convenience store, carries a .38 Smith & Wesson in her pocket, and talks to trees. She knows enough clinical psychology to think that when the trees answer, it proves she's crazy. She can live with that.
She manages to get by in a world where she doesn't really fit, until the truth reaches out to touch her as she slogs home through the slushy midnight sidewalks of a February sleet storm. That truth offers a seductive promise of warmth and sun, green growing things and trees that really do answer when she talks to them. It tells her that she isn't truly human.
Now her blood heritage drags her from Maine into ancient myth three steps away from the modern world, with all the claws and teeth and cruelty intact. Camelot is dead. Arthur is dead. Law is dead. Power rules the Summer Country of Celtic myth, behind the Old Blood faces of beast-master Dougal, dark witch Fiona, and her cunning, treacherous twin brother Sean. Their plots entangle and threaten Maureen's sister Jo, Jo's human lover David, and Brian Albion -- the enigmatic Old Blood knight of the warrior Pendragons, who Maureen trusts about as far as she can throw him.
Maureen can become either a slave or a mighty witch, but her own dark past may be her worst enemy.
Celtic myth is run through the mill of cynical realism and ultra-violence in Hetley's harsh fantasy novel debut. Handsome stranger Brian Albion comes to the rescue when a rapist attacks emotionally troubled Maureen Pierce, a night clerk in a Naskeag Falls, Maine, convenience store. After the bad guy spontaneously combusts, Brian explains that her attacker as well as Maureen herself are "Old Ones," supernatural creatures out of Irish mythology. Through the book's first half, Brian and Maureen battle more evil Old Ones seeking to capture them for breeding purposes, while attempting to work out "issues" brought up by all these shenanigans. Along the way they drag in Maureen's sexually voracious sister, Jo, and Jo's boyfriend, David. Eventually, this group carries their problems into "the Summer Country," the Old Ones' alternate-universe home, which is "two steps away from you, in any direction." Hetley ruins his efforts to make this region believable by lacing it with intrusions from the modern world, including plenty of foul language and brand names. Computers and genetics experiments brush shoulders with dragons and curses, and with one world as pointlessly violent as the other, there's no good reason to have two. Readers used to gentler Celtic fantasy, e.g. Fiona MacLeod, are in for a rude surprise. "Frigging magic," indeed.