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The Hounds of Ardagh by Laura J. Underwood
Review by Mel Jacob
Five Star (ME) Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 1594143765
Date: September, 2006 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Manus, Ginny's deceased mentor, now her constant companion and irritant, adds to the complications. As a spirit, Manus gathers information, but can no longer cast spells. Curiosity, his and Ginny's, compounds their woes. His manifestations frighten local folk, but have no effect on Edain or her demon dog Nidubh who thirsts to consume his soul.

Narrow escape follows narrow escape as they seek to save Fafne and his family, now the hounds of Ardagh. Manus discovers Edain's involvement in Fafne's plight and her plan to sacrifice her current husband to the Dark Lord at the Solstice. Fafne's family as hounds and then Ginny and Manus interfere and threaten her.

Dismissive of Ginny, a mere ghost, and the hounds, Edain consistently underestimates their determination and Ginny's powers. Through only partly trained, Ginny's natural talent aids her fight against the Nidubh and Edain. However, Edain uses Ginny to trap Manus and vice versa as the tides of the struggle ebb and flow.

The fantasy takes place in the Ard-Taebh, a world developed by Underwood in earlier stories and another novel, where magic still survives among the mageborn. Much of the belief system and many names come from Celtic lore and legend. A council of mages controls the practice of magic and prohibits bloodmagic as practiced by Edain. If they learn of her plans, they will strip her of power. This threat spurs Edain's efforts to transform Fafne, to kill Ginny, and to sacrifice Manus. Ordinary means—bad meat, unexpected attacks by robbers, and accident—can kill the close to immortal mageborn as Manus discovered. However, Edain has special plans for her enemies. At first, she intends to give Manus to the Nidubh, but later accords that fate to Ginny.

Ginny finds unexpected allies in the Hounds and in a blind man loyal to the MacArdagh. She must use them and all her skill and strength to face Edain and her Dark Lord. Those who bargain with evil face a terrible price that Edain's schemes to avoid.

Other books by Underwood include Ard Magister, Chronicles of the Last War, and Dragon's Tongue.

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