21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine: Young Fiction Reviews

Author: Brian Keaney
Publisher: Orchard Books
Price: £10.99
ISBN-10: 1846160871
ISBN-13: 978-1846160875
Stephen Doyle

Gallowglass is the second in a trilogy of young adults fantasy and adventure books called ‘The Promises of Doctor Sigmundus’ by Brian Keaney, the first volume titled ‘The Hollow People’.

As the middle book in the trilogy, the story seems to show it, unfortunately. There is only a brief recap of the events of the previous book, which means that any impact of events that happened in that book are somewhat lost on a new reader. Little time is also spent introducing the characters and establishing their roles, and instead this is glossed over to allow the story to get going – in some ways no bad thing, but the same approach is taken to the setting and world, which is easily mistaken by a new reader to be an average fantasy setting, but is instead somewhat of a 1900’s style world – a fact that is quite interesting and sets the story apart from similar young adult fantasy novels.

Despite the characters not receiving a full introduction, they are recognisable fantasy stereotypes, and especially so for this kind of young adults fiction – a teenage male hero attempting to unravel the truth of who he is – a metaphor and identifier for many young males – and the rest of the cast is similarly quite generic, but not without an interest all the same. Secondary characters are not dealt with or explored in any great length or depth in the book, and are mainly there to push the narrative along, with little time spent establishing or fleshing them out.

The plot itself is also quite light, but rapid moving. There is little amount of time spent in rest or reflection, and there always seems to be a drive to move onward, meaning that the book is a page-turner for it’s rapid pace if not for it’s depth.

The downside is that there seems to be a lack of significant ‘events’ in the plot, or set pieces and revelations. What few there are (without spoiling the story) lack impact and seem to be very neatly tied up and quickly dealt with. The Gallowglass character of the title, whom much is built up to, ends up having very little impact in the storyline, and his significance as one of the ‘goals’ of the story and a revelation is, (in the opinion of the reviewer) wasted by a lack of time spent in defining his nature and significance.

There also seem to be a glut of convenient coincidences in the story that are not explained and seem to only be there to solve a problem, such as the convenient appearance of a plane when the hero needs to get somewhere in a hurry, and his companion at that point being a trained pilot.

While they are not major, it will be enough to irritate an older reader, but the target audience will most likely be entertained enough by the action and pace to ignore and gloss over these and enjoy the story.

There are plenty of interesting hooks and germs of ideas in the novel that are hopefully setups for the last volume in the trilogy. Hopefully all will be resolved then, as they seem to have much potential and did make me curious enough to keep reading on until the end of the book in the hope of some revelations or explanations.

I would say that the book is worth reading for certain if you’ve read the first in the trilogy, and the third will be worth it also, as this book ends on quite an exciting cliffhanger. However, it might be best to wait for the paperback.

© Stephen Doyle October 2007
Stephen is a Creative Writing student at the University of Portsmouth

More young fiction reviews


© Hackwriters 1999-2007 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy - no liability accepted by or affiliates.