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Seekers of the Chalice by Brian Cullen
Review by Harriet Klausner
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765314734
Date: 19 February 2008 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

The Tuatha De Danann were five tribes from Greece who came to Erin where they fought the demons known as Famorians three times and forged the Chalice of Fire. Whoever drank from it gained immortality but only the just could consume its liquid without harm. It was given first to the gods and then to the elves and dwarves and finally to man. It eventually came to Maeve, who couldn't drink from it. She gave it to Cucullen when he came to the city of Cruachan Ai in Connachtt. He gave it to the Red Branch in Ulster, where peace prevailed as long as it stayed there.

Bricriu Poisontongue is outraged at being laughed at after falling into offal at a party; he steals the Chalice and intends to bring it to Maliman, a strong evil wizard and leader of the Famorians. He and his minions were thrown into the Great Rim, unable to get free because of the seven seals keeping the portal closed. Now the seals are broken and Maliman and his cohorts are back in his former abode, creating spells and gathering an army that would conquer the entire Earthworld.

In the Otherworld, which is populated by immortals, gods and demi-gods, Cumac, the son of Cucullen, is asked by his immortal mother to retrieve the Chalice because what happened in Earthworld is reflected in the Otherworld. He takes his father's magical sword. Fedelm of the Sidhe of Rath Cruachan accompanies him on his journey. During his trek they come to Rowan Oak where the Ashelves live and are given hospitality, but one there has been taken over by Maliman and tries to poison Fedelm. Cumac saves him and the king of the Ashelves sends Lorgas to go with them as his representative. Lorgas finds a Sidhe that will take them into Earthworld, but once they leave the portal they are attacked by sumairies (vampires). The druid Seanchan finds them and helps heal Cumac. He accompanies them because he is afraid, and they need his magic as sumairies, gray shadows, nightshades and other minions of Maliman try to stop them. Also they run into malignant beings who want to kill or eat them for the fun of it. Tired and drained, they seek succor from the Ervalians, whose queen grants them hospitality. When they have to escape her abode, one of the elves accompanies them to avenge what happened to his queen. They welcome Bern, and one more person, Tian, a sword-wanderer, joins them, and their little band becomes known in the Earthworld as the Seekers of the Chalice.

Anyone who loves a quest fantasy will want to read Seekers of the Chalice, a novel that is reminiscent of the works of Tolkien and Brooks. Bricriu reminds the audience of the Golum who wants his Precious; Bricriu wants to drink from the Chalice, but every time he does it poisons him as well as making him more sneaky and slippery like a slithering snake. There are six heroes and all of them play a role in defending the group and watching each other's back. Each person gives up something to be part of the group, like Cumac who gave up immortality and the two elves who left their homes and companions. They are there to stop Maliman no matter what it takes. All are good warriors and Cuman has his father's magic sword and horse and the others possess different powers that they put to use.

During each stay they are attacked and the battle scenes are not graphic yet are very detailed so readers can easily picture them. Brian Cullen is a great worldbuilder; it is very hard to believe this is his first novel as his pacing is excellent. The characters are well developed and the scenes easily flow from one into another. This is the first book in the trilogy and the cliffhanger ending sets the stage for the second book. This tale is epic in scope and readers become caught up in the plot they will read in one sitting.

Our Readers Respond

From Leone Lewis:
    I should think Brian Cullen's work SEEKERS OF THE CHALICE should be among those nominated for the Hugo Award. The first of a trilogy, it is one of the first to concern itself with Irish legend and use elements of The Red Branch Cycle to form an epic journey by heroes bound to save the world from destruction.

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