When last we left Liam Kelly, tormented ex-IRA wheelman and half-fey, he had, hopefully completely, banished the ghost of Haddock, a detective he’d killed who came back to exact a twisted form of justice. But eliminating Haddock came nowhere near solving Liam’s problems.
To catch up or review this read, summary, and commentary of and Blue Skies from Pain by Stina Leicht, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9.
As he’s a danger to himself and the Fiana, Bran sends Ceara, a female Fiana warrior, to train Liam. She quickly realizes Liam needs far more help than she can provide and takes him to Lachlann, a bespectacled druid. Lachlann explains that, since Liam has cut off the monstrous hound, he’s placed himself in a position to go mad and become one of the fairy terrors that create nightmarish stories among mortals. To overcome the problem, Liam must drink from a copper bowl containing water that holds the greatest horror of his past. To truly be free, he must drink all. But there are some horrors, Liam is not ready to fully confront. He makes a good showing, better than most, but not enough to earn true freedom. He does, at least, manage to release the monstrous hound from the cage Father Murray locked it in inside Liam’s mind.
Reader Comments: So far, this is the funniest chapter of the entire book. My husband kept stopping me to ask why I laughed or made some other noise of amusement. As such, he heard about half this chapter as I reread him sections I found amusing.
Writer Comments: This chapter is also a dark one. It touches again Liam’s worst memory, one he gained at Long Kesh in the first book. Leicht uses the humor to offset the darkness. She cannot drag Liam fully back to mental and emotional health yet--that would be too easy--but she can and does lessen the burden a little for him and for us as readers. For Liam, it comes in the form of restoring part of himself that he shut away, not healing, perhaps, but a splint that might allow future mending. For the readers, we get the fun of seeing Liam at his truest recalcitrance. Few but Liam Kelly would dare defy his father’s trainer and refuse to learn warfare. Fewer would resist a druid. But Liam does these things with such trueness toward himself and such humor, though he certainly doesn’t mean to amuse us, that the chapter has a good and needed balance.
Part of training with the Fiana are the trials. Some days after he gets the hound back, Liam faces his first trial, getting to a tower without getting caught while the Fiana hunt him. It’s surprisingly easy at first. But when Liam reaches an impassable gorge, he realizes that he got too cocky for his own good and stupidly let the hunt corner him. But Liam is never one to surrender. He tries to jump the gorge, which is about fifty feet across. He knows he’s going to die, but he tries anyway. Before he plunges to his death, he transforms into a bird, one of his puca abilities he had not known about. Just before the tower, he turns back into a man and is about to triumph when he spots Mary Kate’s ghost weeping. Careful not to frighten her, he approaches. She recognizes him, but the noise of the swift approaching hunt frightens her away before they can say much to each other. Liam transforms into the bird again and reaches the tower barely in time, his heart broken once more at losing the love of his life.
Reader Comments: Ah, I feel so bad for him! At least, Mary Kate wasn’t quite as beaten up as before. Maybe getting rid of Haddock spared her some pain. If not, I’m curious to know who the he is that threatens her.
Writer Comments: There are things that heroes must do that they would never do without an epic push. Transforming into a bird for Liam is one of them. First of all, he doesn’t know he can do it. Secondly, his previous experience with shapeshifting has been with the monstrous hound who he hates. Leicht needed something to push him to the point that his instincts would take over and reveal to him a new level of his abilities. So, she literally had him go over a cliff. There is no more powerful or immediate of an epic shove than the certainty of death within heartbeats. She has to get Liam to jump off the cliff, but since Liam never surrenders and has already proven he’ll risk his life for a great deal, that isn’t an impossible task. But she does something even more crucial, perhaps subtly so, at the end of the chapter. By having Liam change once more into the bird, she shows us that it has truly become part of his character. It isn’t just a one time, can only do it if his life depends on it thing.
Thank you for joining me today for these chapters of Stina Leicht’s and Blue Skies from Pain. Next Monday, March 4, is the release day for my book Red and the Wolf, so to allow for the celebration, fun, and giveaway I have planned, we’ll resume and Blue Skies from Pain the following Monday, March 11. Until then, make sure to stop by Friday for further forays into fiction, books, the speculative, and life.