The best Irish mythology books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Irish mythology and why they recommend each book.

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The Call

By Peadar Ó Guilín,

Book cover of The Call

The Call picks up on the horror element I loved in Buffy. In this alternative world, the Irish have banished the Sidhe, but as revenge, the Sidhe call Irish teens to their land, where they are hunted for 24 hours. You don’t know who will be called, or when, but eventually, it will be your turn. School is all about helping teens learn to survive when they are taken. Three minutes pass in our world before you are returned. But in what state? I loved the concept of this novel, and the main character will hit you in all the feels!


Who am I?

Growing up in the nineties I was a Buffy fan, although that is probably understating things. I have all the Buffy novels, which I read over when waiting for the next series to come out (this was in the days before Netflix!). For me, Buffy had the exact right mix of humour, horror, and deeper complexity, dealing with issues that really impacted me, but in a way that made them accessible. I loved the characters, I loved Buffy herself, I loved her strength and humanity. When I decided to write Raising Hell, I was influenced by Buffy, but there are differences – Ivy is no chosen one, she chose herself.


I wrote...

Raising Hell

By Bryony Pearce,

Book cover of Raising Hell

What is my book about?

Meet Ivy Elisabeth Mann. Once upon a time Ivy and her friends did a very stupid thing and now there’s a rift letting dark matter into the world. Dark matter that manifests as magic that actually works. Now every teenager with access to the Internet is raising hell. Literally. 

Ivy is doing her best to stem the tide, but there’s only so much one girl with a machete, a job working school security and a cat possessed by the soul of her own grandmother can do against the forces of evil...isn’t there?

Gods and Fighting Men

By Lady Gregory,

Book cover of Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha de Danaan and of the Fianna of Ireland

Although we’ve never stopped telling stories on this island, there is no doubt that a huge part of our heritage would have been lost if not for those who collected it, translated it for a non-Irish-speaking audience, and published it around the world. Lady Gregory’s brilliant collection, Gods and Fighting Men is the one on which so many others are based.


Who am I?

In Ireland, there’s barely a rock or a hedge that doesn’t have a story attached to it. Lots of them are dark, some are sexy and many are downright hilarious. I myself grew up near a river whose name in the Irish language means “eyeballs”. We lived a short but rocky drive from Gleann Nimhe, A.K.A., “Poisoned Glen”, and the origins of these names lie in tales that are even more twisted than you might expect. My very Catholic school relished enthralling its overcrowded classrooms with these pagan stories. We were introduced to gods and saints, famous slaughters, and tragic heroines. For some of us, it sank in. Deep.


I wrote...

The Call

By Peadar Ó Guilín,

Book cover of The Call

What is my book about?

I usually describe my book, The Call, as “a Harry Potter where everybody dies”. It’s a fast-paced, horrific tale for teens that is deeply rooted in Irish mythology and poetry. 

In a future Ireland, teens attend boarding schools whose whole purpose is to teach them to survive an event known as “The Call”. Before they reach adulthood, each of them will be summoned to a hellish fairyland, where for an entire day, the vengeful and slightly insane inhabitants will hunt them down. The book was nominated for a slew of awards and it even won a few of them in the end.

The Tain

By Ciaran Carson (translator),

Book cover of The Tain

If you’re going to read Ireland’s most famous epic in English, you might as well read the most vivid translation going. These ancient stories were full of humour and raunchiness, as well as all the action and heroism you might be expecting. In my opinion, Ciaran Carson gets the tone absolutely right.


Who am I?

In Ireland, there’s barely a rock or a hedge that doesn’t have a story attached to it. Lots of them are dark, some are sexy and many are downright hilarious. I myself grew up near a river whose name in the Irish language means “eyeballs”. We lived a short but rocky drive from Gleann Nimhe, A.K.A., “Poisoned Glen”, and the origins of these names lie in tales that are even more twisted than you might expect. My very Catholic school relished enthralling its overcrowded classrooms with these pagan stories. We were introduced to gods and saints, famous slaughters, and tragic heroines. For some of us, it sank in. Deep.


I wrote...

The Call

By Peadar Ó Guilín,

Book cover of The Call

What is my book about?

I usually describe my book, The Call, as “a Harry Potter where everybody dies”. It’s a fast-paced, horrific tale for teens that is deeply rooted in Irish mythology and poetry. 

In a future Ireland, teens attend boarding schools whose whole purpose is to teach them to survive an event known as “The Call”. Before they reach adulthood, each of them will be summoned to a hellish fairyland, where for an entire day, the vengeful and slightly insane inhabitants will hunt them down. The book was nominated for a slew of awards and it even won a few of them in the end.

The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne / The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu

By Standish O'Grady, A.H. Leahy,

Book cover of The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne / The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu

Irish mythological tales are usually divided into various cycles. I’ve already included the heart of the aristocratic Ulster Cycle with The Táin above. Here, with The Pursuit, A.K.A., the Tóraíocht, we have my favourite part of the Fenian Cycle, with a Dark Ages hallucinatory road trip across the island as runaway lovers try to evade capture by a jilted king. Did I mention it was funny? I should have. It’s great.


Who am I?

In Ireland, there’s barely a rock or a hedge that doesn’t have a story attached to it. Lots of them are dark, some are sexy and many are downright hilarious. I myself grew up near a river whose name in the Irish language means “eyeballs”. We lived a short but rocky drive from Gleann Nimhe, A.K.A., “Poisoned Glen”, and the origins of these names lie in tales that are even more twisted than you might expect. My very Catholic school relished enthralling its overcrowded classrooms with these pagan stories. We were introduced to gods and saints, famous slaughters, and tragic heroines. For some of us, it sank in. Deep.


I wrote...

The Call

By Peadar Ó Guilín,

Book cover of The Call

What is my book about?

I usually describe my book, The Call, as “a Harry Potter where everybody dies”. It’s a fast-paced, horrific tale for teens that is deeply rooted in Irish mythology and poetry. 

In a future Ireland, teens attend boarding schools whose whole purpose is to teach them to survive an event known as “The Call”. Before they reach adulthood, each of them will be summoned to a hellish fairyland, where for an entire day, the vengeful and slightly insane inhabitants will hunt them down. The book was nominated for a slew of awards and it even won a few of them in the end.

Through the Door

By Jodi McIsaac,

Book cover of Through the Door

I recommend this book not only for its gripping storyline but for its fascinating take on Irish mythology and seamless blend into our world too! I loved the characters, especially Cedar, the main protagonist in the book as she's thrown into the deep end and has to adapt pretty quickly to survive and save her daughter! And if you're like me and like to work out how it ends, there's enough here to keep you guessing. I certainly didn't see that coming!


Who am I?

Ever since I was a child the world has fascinated me. I’ve grown up with a deep love of reading and passion for the natural world, so much so that this often inspires both my writing and my artwork. As an artist and writer I seek to showcase the wonder and magic in the world. I have been able to draw upon ancient legends for inspiration into how people’s minds worked in the deep past and use it to enrich my writing further to cement the stories into our world and become more tangible. As a part-time adventurer, it’s only natural that my novels should be that.


I wrote...

A Retreating Tide (The Mirror of Shadows)

By R.A. Whitworth,

Book cover of A Retreating Tide (The Mirror of Shadows)

What is my book about?

A thrilling adventure into the world beyond the ancient stones. Following Alicia, a woman who has no memory of her past and Nathan who’s desperate to escape the abuse he suffered in his, are thrust into an epic adventure through the wilds of the Eárie. In this world where hill tribes roam the mountains, and sprites live in underground caverns they will need to learn what it takes to survive the wilderness as well as the parasitic threat known as the Shadows. 

The Book of Conquests

By Jim Fitzpatrick,

Book cover of The Book of Conquests

Jim Fitzpatrick’s CV may include the world’s most famous portrait of Che Guevara, but in Ireland, he is better known for his glorious depictions of our native myths and legends. If anything can be said to be his masterpiece, it is his work in The Book of Conquests. The text is a translation of a medieval manuscript, Lebor Gabála Érenn. This account of the mythical origins of Ireland was my most important inspiration for writing The Call. But as a child, it was the pulse-pounding illustrations that really made my jaw drop.


Who am I?

In Ireland, there’s barely a rock or a hedge that doesn’t have a story attached to it. Lots of them are dark, some are sexy and many are downright hilarious. I myself grew up near a river whose name in the Irish language means “eyeballs”. We lived a short but rocky drive from Gleann Nimhe, A.K.A., “Poisoned Glen”, and the origins of these names lie in tales that are even more twisted than you might expect. My very Catholic school relished enthralling its overcrowded classrooms with these pagan stories. We were introduced to gods and saints, famous slaughters, and tragic heroines. For some of us, it sank in. Deep.


I wrote...

The Call

By Peadar Ó Guilín,

Book cover of The Call

What is my book about?

I usually describe my book, The Call, as “a Harry Potter where everybody dies”. It’s a fast-paced, horrific tale for teens that is deeply rooted in Irish mythology and poetry. 

In a future Ireland, teens attend boarding schools whose whole purpose is to teach them to survive an event known as “The Call”. Before they reach adulthood, each of them will be summoned to a hellish fairyland, where for an entire day, the vengeful and slightly insane inhabitants will hunt them down. The book was nominated for a slew of awards and it even won a few of them in the end.

Waylander

By David Gemmell,

Book cover of Waylander

Gemmel is still the only author who writes heroic fantasy in a way that inspires you. His style is unmatched, his heroes are all larger than life and their battle scenes are exquisite. He has an attention to detail that allows you to bond with the character and care for each of them.


Who am I?

I've been passionate about Fantasy ever since I found a used copy of the Dragonlance Chronicles in a second-hand book store in India. I was 10 years old and immediately fell in love with the idea of fantasy worlds with magic and dragons. Soon after I read Terry Brooks, Neil Gaiman, Piers Anthony, RA Salvatore, Edgar Burroughs, and a host of other writers from the 1980s. What I like about the books I've chosen is that these characters are memorable. They are stories that can be re-read because the plot doesn't feel like rehashed tropes. The uniqueness of the settings, the challenges they face, and the solutions they engineer are what make them worth reading.


I wrote...

Keep Calm and Go Crazy: A Guide to Finding Your Inner Hero

By Rohan Monteiro,

Book cover of Keep Calm and Go Crazy: A Guide to Finding Your Inner Hero

What is my book about?

He had it all: a spot on the couch, a bunch of friends, and a semi-decent-paying job... What more could anyone want? But when an unexpected offer took him to Dubai, Rohan realized he was completely clueless about how to survive. And when he found the girl of his dreams, survival was no longer an option. He needed to discover the hero within him, and he was buried way too deep. In a journey across mountains, rivers, and jungles, with half-baked plans and misadventures, Rohan reinvents himself in the pursuit of true love and along the way inspires us to discover our true selves.

Ireland's Immortals

By Mark Williams,

Book cover of Ireland's Immortals: A History of the Gods of Irish Myth

This is a fascinating look at the perceptions of Irish mythology at different points throughout our history. There’s always a lot of fuss on the internet about fantasy writers who get our mythology “wrong”, but Mark Williams shows that the legends themselves and their themes have evolved constantly to reflect the concerns and mores of the times and of the storytellers themselves. Ireland’s Immortals is almost an academic proof of the thesis laid out in Robert Holdstock’s brilliant novel, Mythago Wood, which -- it goes without saying -- I also highly recommend.


Who am I?

In Ireland, there’s barely a rock or a hedge that doesn’t have a story attached to it. Lots of them are dark, some are sexy and many are downright hilarious. I myself grew up near a river whose name in the Irish language means “eyeballs”. We lived a short but rocky drive from Gleann Nimhe, A.K.A., “Poisoned Glen”, and the origins of these names lie in tales that are even more twisted than you might expect. My very Catholic school relished enthralling its overcrowded classrooms with these pagan stories. We were introduced to gods and saints, famous slaughters, and tragic heroines. For some of us, it sank in. Deep.


I wrote...

The Call

By Peadar Ó Guilín,

Book cover of The Call

What is my book about?

I usually describe my book, The Call, as “a Harry Potter where everybody dies”. It’s a fast-paced, horrific tale for teens that is deeply rooted in Irish mythology and poetry. 

In a future Ireland, teens attend boarding schools whose whole purpose is to teach them to survive an event known as “The Call”. Before they reach adulthood, each of them will be summoned to a hellish fairyland, where for an entire day, the vengeful and slightly insane inhabitants will hunt them down. The book was nominated for a slew of awards and it even won a few of them in the end.

Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1)

By Stephen R. Lawhead,

Book cover of Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1)

Although magic doesn’t feature as strongly in this as the other recommendations and in the subsequent books in the series, I recommend this it cleverly disguises magic within the world, it's not showy but still believable, something which makes you think. It's also a gripping tale that connects Atlantis with the stories around King Arthur.


Who am I?

Ever since I was a child the world has fascinated me. I’ve grown up with a deep love of reading and passion for the natural world, so much so that this often inspires both my writing and my artwork. As an artist and writer I seek to showcase the wonder and magic in the world. I have been able to draw upon ancient legends for inspiration into how people’s minds worked in the deep past and use it to enrich my writing further to cement the stories into our world and become more tangible. As a part-time adventurer, it’s only natural that my novels should be that.


I wrote...

A Retreating Tide (The Mirror of Shadows)

By R.A. Whitworth,

Book cover of A Retreating Tide (The Mirror of Shadows)

What is my book about?

A thrilling adventure into the world beyond the ancient stones. Following Alicia, a woman who has no memory of her past and Nathan who’s desperate to escape the abuse he suffered in his, are thrust into an epic adventure through the wilds of the Eárie. In this world where hill tribes roam the mountains, and sprites live in underground caverns they will need to learn what it takes to survive the wilderness as well as the parasitic threat known as the Shadows. 

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