This story is very easy to get enchanted by, while at the same time pondering if it couldn't be true history. Celtic wisdom and Druid mysteries abound in this wonderful book. It presents a story of (Saint) Patrick from a rich setting of how this legendary Roman slave really practised his priesthood when he returned to Eire. The author, Juilene Osborne-McKnight, weaves characters from Fianna warriors to Otherworld mystics and the "heathen" Irish of Patrick's time converting them to the Three-in-One faith. The myths and folklore (Fenians, Druids, clan leaders, etc.) keep the story moving along swiftly, as the pre-Christian times in Eire are written about passionately.
The selected bibliography and historical background at the end of the book offer even greater insight to the characters in I Am of Irelaunde.
The main con for me was the irritating nature of Patrick's limited acceptance of anything not of Roman Christian, and of the dour way he thought civilized people should behave. He had so many prejudices, it was hard to view him as saintly. Of course, his character became enriched with bits of acceptance to his ultra-stubborn nature, and that was the strength of his spirituality, but I wanted to smack him for his humanness.
Magonus Succatus Patricius re-arrives in Eire at the age of 40. He had previously been a captured slave there from the ages of 16 to 22. The story of his return is premised that it was the will of God forcing him to return and convert the Hibernians. One reoccurent obstacle with his heathens is the pronunciation of his name. They call him Padraig, pronounced a Gaelic way as "paw drig." Any remonstrances he use are ignored, and eventually he refers to himself as Padraig. That is an amusing evolution of his growth in acceptance and love for this Green Isle and the trials its inhabitants presents.
His wise tutor appears in the prologue, and soon enough the parallel stories of this man, Osian, unfold as tales within tales. Osian is the son of a renowned Fenian leader (dead the past 200 years), Fionn Mac Cumhail (finn mac cool). Immediately Patrick's stubborn disbelief in the old Eire of magic, Druids, and Fenian foolishness rears, and the transformation of his perceptions begins.
Each story, song and poem that Osian shares with the men and women Patrick has invited to follow his ways relates to the man Patrick becomes. His struggles are vast among the people of Eire who have yet to learn his ministry. They are steeped in the Celtic traditions of old and he must learn to speak on their terms, like the stories he hears from Osian. This way helps him to be more accepting of those not baptized in his faith. At the same time, the stories of the Fenians of the past parallel the characters introduced in the present time of Patrick's story, and the travails they go through, so does Patrick in a fashion.
His travels take the reader to some famous places and things of old like; Almhuin (Fionn Mac Cumhails stronghold in what we know as Kildare), Crom Cruach (a legendary sacrificial god in the form of a stone, Mag Sleacht), and the Sidhe (descendents from the Tuatha De Danaan, also called the Other). Pronunciations and definitions are given in the glossary of the book. This is a plus so to allow the reader a more sensory experience while reading the story.
Along the way, Patrick meets Ainfean, the druidess. She apprenticed for 20 years to become a well loved and respected druid priestess. Her lineage is rich in the way that her father was a great chief, and her mother a well-known healer and druidess. In short, she has great sway with the people he wishes to convert, and he must acknowledge her friendship eventually. She is a character best described by Osian as, "She is a woman of Eire, Padraig. They take their power from themselves; they fear little. . ." (pg 79). Her character also introduces a love story. That in return continues the question of the Three-in-One celibacy rule that Patrick and his followers adhere to. It is still a question in the Catholic religion. The love story that develops is not of a sexual nature, but of a respectful accepting and teaching from each other nature. Ainfean is an important figure in the novel, and she fills the reader's image of a druidess who wielded her powers wisely, not harmfully. The bantering and dislike that Ainfean and Patrick have for each other initially is downright honest conversation, a highlight to read.
The saga ends surprisingly, and proudly on Patrick's part. He has come to finally call his countrymen the true, dishonorable heathens - the enlightenment unfolded.
I highly recommend I Am of Irelaunde; for any lovers of Irish lore and Celtic mystical characters and sacred places from the Emerald Isle. Oh, and to those who imagine Saint Patrick, please read it.