Author: Jodi McIsaac
Date of Publication: 6th September 2016
Synopsis: A girl gets involved in the IRA during the Troubles – with disastrous consequences. Years later she has strange dreams which lead to her being caught up in time travel, landing her in 30’s Ireland at the height of the civil war.
This book was provided in exchange for an honest review. My thanks go to Jodi McIsaac, 47 North and Netgalley for the opportunity
Bury the Living sounds like a great concept. I requested it on Netgalley whilst still high off my reading of Wolfking by Sarah Rayne – also an Irish fantasy, time travel-centric novel. However upon reading I came across a number of problems, which I think truly narrow down to perhaps just one. I like Jodi McIsaac as a historical fiction writer, but I don’t like her fantasy writing – at least not here.
It would sound as though this were an insurmountable obstacle, but you’d be surprised. There are swathes of Bury the Living in which I could almost forget altogether that there was any fantasy element in the book at all. I especially loved a sequence of scenes set in a women’s prison – in fact if McIsaac were to write a whole book based in an early 1900’s political prison for women I would be first in line to read it. However for me the time travel element was ropey and the introduction of otherworldly beings seemed so out of place as to feel tacked on, detracting from the overall story.
Nora is a difficult heroine – often acting rashly and impulsively, but I would say that ultimate I grew to like her by the novel’s conclusion. I was sorely lacking development from other characters though, not really connecting with them due to their low amount of time to be fully realised – this more true with Thomas than with any other character. Again, this feels connected to the fantasy element being woven, with limited success, into a relatively strong historical novel; along with an ever heavier burden of lore and religion taking up a lot of page time.
Overall this was at times an interesting read. However I couldn’t help but feel frustrated for what could have been. An overabundance of exposition and numerous plot points weighed down a brilliant idea and some really lovely descriptive writing.