Legacy of Hunger by Christy Nicholas is set in Ireland during its famine, and combines history with fantasy…a wonderful combination when it comes to stories set in the Celtic countries. It is the first book in a three-book series.
Valentia is an independent young woman who travels to Ireland in search of her family and a brooch she has only seen drawings of. Perils await as she travels overseas and visits her ancestral home. I don’t want to say more about this because I don’t want to include any spoilers.
Nicholas paints a moody picture of Ireland in its dire straits. Valentia, daughter of a civic-minded mother, immerses herself in the politics of the time and does her best to support those who struggled wherever she could. As she faces challenges both at sea and in Ireland, she matures in a natural, organic way.
Though there’s plenty of drama to be had, Nicholas is not graphic or over the top in her descriptions, and I like her approach. Though I like the Outlander books, for example, they are sometimes more graphic and gratuitous than I would like. Also, the fantasy element is subtle and gradual, and Nicholas includes some interesting details of Irish folklore. As a student of Irish history and folklore myself, I appreciated some of the details she included, and she did so in a way that didn’t disrupt the story itself.
A few elements near the end feel as if they are wrapped up a bit too quickly, but this is a minor detail. I am eager to continue reading the rest of the series.
On a personal note, Legacy of Hunger appealed to me because of my own work on Factory Girl, my WIP that combines historical fiction with fantasy. LoH is set in Ireland, while Factory Girl is set in Scotland, and we are both drawing from similar sources. Since I don’t normally delve into fantasy realms in my work, it’s an uncomfortable area for me, and Legacy of Hunger had the effect of giving me “permission” to continue with my revisions and to explore a path I hadn’t expected to travel.