I read and reviewed the first volume of Rutherfurd’s “Dublin Saga”: The Princes of Ireland, last month, and as I’ve said before, I generally don’t review sequels unless I have something new to say. In this case, I do have something new to say — I enjoyed The Rebels of Ireland even better than Princes.
This may be because Princes covers a shorter timespan — only about 300 years of Dublin history, from the early 1600s to the 1921 Easter Rising. In general, a span of 300 years does not indicate a fast-moving novel, but for Rutherfurd this is positively snappy. As a result, there are fewer of the jarring leaps that bothered me in Princes — getting absorbed in a character’s story only to find that the next section picks up 300 years later with that character’s distant descendants. In Rebels, the reader is able to read about a character as a young man, then as an older person, and in the next chapter read about his children, which provides much greater continuity and, for me anyway, kept pages turning more quickly.
The novel ends by bringing the story of one of the several Dublin families full circle, returning in some ways to the people and place that began the saga back in the first chapters of Princes. While this was a satisfying way to end the books, I did have one quibble about the ending. Even if Rutherfurd didn’t want to pursue the story of Irish history past the date of Ireland’s independence, I wish he had included a short epilogue giving us a glimpse of the vital, thriving city that is twenty-first century Dublin. But maybe I’ll have to wait another 500 years for him to write that novel!