Knights of the Borrowed Dark – book review

KOTBDIf you are afraid of the dark, what’s the dark afraid of? The answer lies in Knights of the Borrowed Dark, the first book by the impressively ginger-bearded Irish author Dave Rudden. I expected a lot from it – if an unknown twenty-something gets a full trilogy of book and film rights snapped up it had better be special. As someone with a steely core of cynicism I expected to be disappointed – but I was hooked from the beginning. How’s this for an opening sentence? “Looking back, it had been a mistake to fill the orphanage with books”.

Denizen Hardwick is an orphan living in Crosscaper, a rainswept windswept fortress on the edge of the sea. He is a sardonic wee soul, the only one who doesn’t read the donated books threadbare expecting his own Cinderella moment. Sure, in storybooks orphans are rescued from drudgery when they discover they are a wizard or a warrior or a stolen prince. But this is real life – orphans are just kids without parents who rely on philanthropy and are hidden away from society. Unfortunately for Denizen – real life is not what he thought it was. Shortly after his thirteenth birthday, he is summoned to an embassy-like residence on Seraphim Row, to meet an aunt he never knew existed. There he learns that there are whole other worlds in the shadows, that there are monsters, and that the only thing keeping them at bay is an ancient order of knights with special powers that come at a terrible cost. Powers he has inherited. From a family he never knew he had.

Which was worse – a whole new world coming out of nowhere to derail your future or never having a choice of a future in the first place?

 I don’t want to tell to too much plot wise as it’s a rattling good read and you should go along for the ride. Yeah we have ALL the tropes here, but we are encouraged to cock a wry eyebrow at them – think Joss Whedon and Neil Gaiman and you see where Rudden is coming from. There are mythic monsters taking forms out of the shadows, and there are just plain nasty ones. The Clockwork Three are brilliant baddies that bring genuine darkness – wait until you read why ‘the Opening Boy’ is part of the trio and your blood will run cold. Rudden skilfully involves the reader in the creation of the monsters through Denizen’s struggle to describe to us the first shadow monster he meets, which looks “as if you’d been asked to sculpt an angel, but you’d never seen one before, and there were people to tell you what one looked like… but they hated you”.   Continue reading “Knights of the Borrowed Dark – book review”

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Into the West – Romanticism in Irish rural sociology

Romanticism in rural sociology stems, in many ways, from the cultural idealism which the rural has had lumbered upon it. This essay attempts to outline the impact of this idealism on the sociological view of the rural, the prevalence of romanticism with regard to rurality, and to illustrate attempts to negate this romanticism. I hope to show that romantic Ireland, far from being dead and gone, is a fiction firmly lodged in the modern mindset and in sociological frameworks.

The rural has not always been romanticised by any means. In fact, Karl Marx pitied those forced to live in the “idiocy of rural life”(Slater, 1995:5). In fact it would be safe to conjecture that romanticism in the form that plagues rural sociology is traceable only post-eighteenth century, where the ideological revolution against the regulations of the Enlightenment led to the proposition that Arcadia was centred in the simplistic, virtuistic countryside. Suddenly the Industrial Revolution was being challenged by “the romantic version of rural life” which “defined it as being more profound and fulfilling than urban life, and more harmonious and virtuous”(Slater, 1995:2). The poets of the Lake District were illustrating the Zeitgeist when they lost themselves in the poetic bosom of the country. The desire of this period to study other cultures led to a veritable barrage of literary texts examining the “Other”, such as Kipling’s “Kim” and Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. Even Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”, while clearly describing fictitious lands, was playing into the hands of those fascinated by “the Other” and clearly recognised that “Their time is not Our time, and Their space is not Our space”(Peace, 1987:94). Soon there was a general mourning for the loss of Durkheimian mechanical solidarity through spiraling urbanisation, while the work of Tonnies began to be misrepresented so as the rural was positively teeming with Gemeinschaft relationships (Slater, 1995: 7). This led to the creation of a rural pedestal that the modern tourist still attempts to gaze upon. Continue reading “Into the West – Romanticism in Irish rural sociology”