First published back in October of 2015, ‘The Celtic Curse: Banshee’ formed the first instalment into Irish author D. J. Doyle’s (aka Denise Doyle) ‘Celtic Curse’ supernatural horror trilogy, along with being the young author’s debut novel.

DLS Synopsis:
Back in the 17th Century, the O’Neill’s clan leader - Tierney O’Neill – had gotten wind that his son – Fionn – had become infatuated with a young gypsy girl.  However Fionn had been promised to Donal’s daughter - Sile - next winter when she was of age.  It would be the coming together of two powerful clans.  Something that his own clan needed.  And Tierney wasn’t going to let the likes of a gypsy girl get in the way of this match.

And so Tierney ordered the clan’s sadist-for-hire – Fintan Kavanagh – to get rid of the young gypsy girl - Keela.  However, Fintan would do far more than just scare the girl away.  Together with his vicious friend – Daithi – they raped and then killed the gypsy girl, before burying her brutalised body in a patch of sacred land where their forefathers had once fought for their titles.

However, the gypsies know the powers of the dark arts.  In fact, Keela had learnt many ancient curses from her mother.  Knowledge that was passed down through countless generations of the gypsies.  And whilst Keela was being savagely raped by the two men, she called upon the darkest, most cruel and malevolent curse known to her people.  It would be the last thing she did before her young life was extinguished.

After the two men bury the dead gypsy girl in a shallow grave, then cover it with a large boulder, the nightsky above opens and Daithi is struck by a bolt of lightning.  Fleeing the scene of the barbaric crime, Fintan tries turning to the man who put them up to the task - Tierney O’Neill.  But the curse has already been set in motion.  The bloodline for those Keela saw as responsible for her horrific death have now been cursed.  And for generations to come, Keela will reap revenge on the men from this cursed bloodline.  The O’Neill family will be forever cursed.

Centuries later, in the present day, Sean MacNeal has become deeply concerned by the nightmares and strange occurrences that have been happening to his young son – Kevin.  However Sean’s elderly father – Brendan – believes he knows what is responsible.

Passed down from generation to generation, the story of the family curse is something that has troubled Brendan MacNeal all his life.  It is believed that they are the descendants from a cursed bloodline.  The Banshee would pursue the young boys who were approaching manhood and take their lives in vengeance of a crime committed centuries ago.

Since Brendon and Sean married Irish women, Brendan believes their cursed bloodline has now grown strong enough for the Banshee to form again.  And because of that, Kevin is now in terrible danger.

The Banshee is once again strong enough to seek revenge on the MacNeal’s cursed family.  Furthermore, anyone who gets in her way will feel the Banshee’s terrible wrath.  It is now a race against time for Sean MacNeal to save his cursed son…

DLS Review:
There’s something that’s instantly (and inherently) captivating about a story when it’s steeped in well-researched history.  Even more so if the author has an ancestral connection with the subject matter.  A link that can be felt through the writing – enhancing the details with a detectable personal attachment to the historical elements and mythology.

I don’t know how much of a connection author D.J. Doyle has with the Irish Mythology utilised within her tale, however the passion for its historical charm is clearly evident in the way her tale has so fully embraced its depth and the longevity of its influence.

In essence what you have with ‘The Celtic Curse: Banshee’ is a supernatural horror that (potentially) owes as much to Koji Suzuki’s supernatural horror ‘Ring’ (1991) as it does to Irish mythology.  On top of that there’s also a thick ‘thriller’ style pulse giving the story a much-needed burst of energy, along with a Dan Brown-esque ‘uncovering of long-forgotten historical records’ which gives the tale its strong ‘historical’ footing.

The tale kicks off back in the 17th century whereby we’re given a bitter blow-by-blow account of how the story’s curse on the MacNeal bloodline was instigated.  As you’d expect, the story isn’t pretty.  This entire first section of the tale, eventually culminates in the rape and murder of a young gypsy girl who of course curses the bloodline of those she deems responsible for her suffering.

Although laced with interweaving characters and intriguing sub-stories, you can’t help but feel that the first sixty odd pages of the tale are a tad too overly-engineered.

Affording a richness to the characters and developing an involved and well-rounded backstory to the plot is definitely worthwhile.  It adds depth and credibility to the story.  However, it’s easy to become sucked into fleshing all of this out just that bit too much; the end result being an overly-padded backstory that starts the tale off with a stutter rather than a burst of attention grabbing energy.

That said, when the curse is in place and we’re thrust forwards into the present day, the overall pace starts to pick up with some much-needed momentum.

Characterisation throughout the novel is pretty much a middle-of-the-road affair.  You know who’s who, and our protagonist has enough about him to get you rooting for him.  There’s also something moderately credible about most of the characters.  However, other than an initial glossing over of who each character is, there’s little in the way of noticeable development in respect of the characterisation from then on.

Nevertheless, it’s definitely a very enjoyable yarn to dive into.  Doyle utilises a split location to add a fuller, more involved picture to the tale.  In London we have our protagonist’s young son - seventeen-year-old Kevin - who’s next in line to feel the wrath of one very pissed off Banshee.  Whilst Kevin seeks sanctuary in the holy ground of a catholic church, his father, Sean is off gallivanting around Ireland trying to figure out how to end this damn curse.

There’s certainly enough in these dual storylines to keep a steady momentum going.  Unfortunately interwoven with all this you have a very-out-of-place love interest, which just feels a tad too scripted.  Luckily there’s also a failed marriage backstory thrown in, which successfully muddies the water and dirties the Hollywood romance somewhat.  Nevertheless, you can’t help but feel that the author hasn’t quite found her voice with the storytelling side of things yet.

For an easy, thriller-cum-supernatural horror read, it’s really not a bad tale at all.  The history and the ‘Emerald Isle’ backdrop work wonderfully in the novel’s favour.  Doyle also ends her story with a very well-executed little twist ending, which hits you like a sledgehammer to the face. I honestly didn’t see this one coming.

A quietly sinister supernatural horror story steeped in Irish Mythology.

The novel runs for a total of 243 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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