We’re all Folk’d now…

Completely Folk’d
Laurence Donaghy
Blackstaff Press; £7.99
Review: Val Nolan

Endings are difficult. For the reader it means saying goodbye to familiar characters and worlds while for the writer, especially a series writer, it brings the challenges of crafting a capstone which is true to what has come before. Popular culture is littered with finales which have lost what made their originals distinctive but, thankfully, this final part of Laurence Donaghy’s Irish fantasy series is not one of them.

The conclusion to the story begun in Folk’d (2013) and continued by Folk’d Up (2014), Completely Folk’d is an energetic culmination sure to entertain a YA audience and to please those readers who have accompanied the characters thus far. Run through with the author’s distinctive irreverence, and nerdishly garnished with references to films and TV shows, the book successfully integrates a new widescreen perspective into the established story while nonetheless being entirely consistent with its existing supernatural family drama.

Nodding towards Stephen King, the Langolierish opening of Completely Folk’d follows directly from the conclusion of Folk’d Up where the entire island of Ireland was excised from the face of the Earth:

“The Irish Sea had been halted, as if by the hand of God in an irregular line. The waters swirled and rebounded off an invisible wall, preventing tens of millions of gallons of seawater from rushing in and filling a great nothingness – a vast void where the island of Ireland had been.
Ireland was gone. Lock, stock, and barrel it was gone.”

This is the first stage of “The Merging” whereby Ireland and the “Otherworld” will be brought together by the faerie witch-queen Carman. And this on top of the alternate timelines and supernatural incursions which have already defined the series.

The fluid nature of such a reality is reflected in Donaghy’s unconstrained prose. After all, the crises facing the novel’s characters calls not for fine speeches (though there are a share of those on offer) but for a raw, immediate narrative style, for expletive-filled dialogue, and for literal smash-cuts between scenes. Linguistically so, this is not dainty, elven High Fantasy; it is instead the smash-bang-wallop vernacular of a Saturday night in Belfast.

Danny Morrigan, “one of the Morrigans”, is still reeling from the revelations and the “insane vision quest” of the first two books. Now it is time for him to embrace his responsibilities as “part of an ancient bloodline charged with protecting Ireland from being overrun by a race of beings who had come to be known as – ha! – faeries”. Reunited with Ellie after their separation by the last book’s parallel reality, Danny’s mission is not simply to save Ireland, it is to regain the family that was stolen from him. Though of course, in mythological resonant fashion, he and Ellie are about to discover that their son Luke is no longer the eight-month old innocent who was taken from them.

Like the prior volumes, this is a carefully structured book and its pacey plotline nicely balances the present day events with relevant flashbacks to strengthen both character motivation and the Folk’d mythology. Moreover, linking the stories of the Tuatha Dé Danann to the often seemingly magical internet age grants Donaghy’s faerie threat a contemporary insidiousness. They may be supernatural but, by “harvesting the fear of the humans” via smartphones, the scariest aspect of the faeries is again their embodiment of corporate skulduggery, even a touch of state surveillance.

It is interesting too to see an author who has lived in the Northern Irish capital all his life portray a city overrun by literal demons. Otherworld Belfast “looked like a city during wartime, besieged and aflame”. The first indication of its translocation “had been the screams […] upsetting to hear but not exactly uncommon in Belfast in the wee hours”. Tellingly though, guns do not work in the Otherworld. Combat there is closer, more primal, and this gives Donaghy a lot to work with in the fight scenes which make up the majority of the novel.

This is not to say that Completely Folk’d is weighted towards action at the expense of its protagonists’ development. After all, the convergence of battles ancient and modern to decide “the fate of Ireland” would matter very little if Donaghy’s expansive cast did not flex and grow to the degree that they do. Thus the completion of Danny’s Hero’s Journey is complimented by solid roles for his friend Steve and his father Tony Morrigan. Yet it is perhaps Ellie who is best served here vis-à-vis the previous books (her confrontation with a faerie’s human puppet is a particular delight).

A surprisingly generous conclusion follows these figures into their transformed lives, and, for that matter, their response to the world’s fearful reaction when Ireland is snatched away and then magically returned to Earth. It’s not exactly ‘The Scouring of the Shire’ but, in allowing the surviving characters to take charge of and defend their changed world, this extended goodbye fulfils a similar narrative role and, more than that, it allows Donaghy to end his outlandish tale on very human terms.

A Belfast Buffy by way of Star Wars (the fact that Danny’s son is named Luke leaves one tempted to read a key sequence here as an inversion of a legendary scene from that film franchise), Completely Folk’d is to be commended for going all in to wrap up the series and its storylines in rousing fashion. The fact that one finds oneself reaching repeatedly for screen analogies in discussing the book further leads to the belief that the Folk’d trilogy would readily translate to, say, a TV miniseries or the like. Perhaps when Game of Thrones eventually frees up Belfast’s production resources, someone might fancy tackling the project…? Until such a time, however, fans of the first two books will not be disappointed to read how it all ends.


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