Michael Scott is an Irish author whose fantasy fiction is steeped in Celtic sensibilities, and this one is a perfect example. The first in a trilogy telling the story of Paedar the Bard, a legendary hook handed teller of stories. The novel is set in a mythical past where reality is defined by its legends, and where the most sacred individuals are those who carry the stories from place to place. It begins with a meeting in the woods, between Paedar and one of the old gods, Mannam, Lord of the Dead. He agrees to go on a quest in return for a rare Harp, but is manipulated into something altogether different.
Paedar finds himself a representative of the old religion, traveling and telling stories to help keep the old gods alive. It is a world where gods are defined by their believers, and just as a god can be born from belief, so can one die from the lack of it. Through the stories he tells he gathers those of the old faith to him, renewing their beliefs, becoming a thorn in the side of the representatives of a new religion who are trying to suppress the old. Many of the parables he tells are included within the narrative, interlaced with the main story, though less so as the story progresses.
The narrative gets gradually darker as the truth behind the new religion is exposed, and shifts into the more conventional quest style, with Paedar and a small group of companions attempting to save the world from dissolution. It is reminiscent of the Moorcock school of fantasy, with a strong sense of the influence of mythology, managing to remain fresh and compelling. Paedar is an interesting character, raised to a state caught somewhere between man and godhood, distant and aloof at first but gradually rediscovering his humanity.