After the death of her parents, Luaine becomes embroiled in Irish politics and must fight a power-hungry king, overcome a curse that disfigures her and enter a scholarly life as a druidess. Luaine is proud to be the daughter of a fierce warrior and dreams of one day fighting alongside her father. Luaine's father is Cuchulainn, Lord of Muirthemne and Champion of Ulster, a hero of Ireland. The story begins with Luaine being kept safely inside the house as her father is returning with the red battle frenzy upon him and cannot tell friend from foe. Later that day, her father asks her and her mother to go to the king to warn him that Queen Maeve is invading Ulster and that the king should rally his troops. Meanwhile, her father will be busy defending the border. Before she leaves, her father gives her a beautiful blade to carry. When Luaine and her mother arrive at the king's court it is only to find that the king is still feasting. Apparently, the men had drunken and eaten so much food that they are now ill. Luaine's mother busies herself trying to nurse all the men back to health so that they can join the battle at the border of Ireland.
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Luaine's father rides back from battle, victorious and a huge celebration is thrown. But Cuchulainn quickly falls into a stupor of depression at the deaths of his dear friends. He spends most of his time sleeping. The king's druid, Cathbad, weaves a spell to ensure that Cuchulainn is not haunted by the evil spirits of the dead he has killed. One night, a member of the Tuatha Da Danaan (a fairy) named Liban appears and claims that the only way Cuchulainn can be awoken from his deep slumber is if he is given to her sister, Fand who has fallen in love with him. Luaine's mother is angered but she loves Cuchulainn so much that if there is hope he will heal she will let him go. Liban ends up taking Cuchulainn away into the Otherworld. A few months later, Cuchulainn returns in full health.
Cuchulainn insists that Luaine be taught how to fight with the sword and Luaine. She also learns how to perform simple druidic auguries with Ogham sticks. Cathbad, gives her a raven called Fintan. Fintan has a white feather in which Luaine can sometimes see visions of where he has been. Luaine also has a special connection with Fintan as she feels like she can communicate with him.
As Luaine grows up, her parents start to talk about her future marriage prospects. One day, Queen Maeve vows to march again on Ulster and specifically kill Cuchulainn. Luaine's mother tells her that Luaine's dowry is hidden in the hills and that she should seek it out if anything should happen to them. Soon after, Cuchulainn is killed in battle. Luaine's mother, unable to overcome her grief, kills herself. Luaine must now take up the mantle of running her household and lands. The king and others suggest that she marry a man who can take over her father's job of defending the border. The king ends up marrying her and Luaine becomes the Queen of Ulster.
While the king is away, Luaine ponders on whether she will ever be a good Queen as she feels inexperienced and too young to rule. One day, she is accosted by some drunken poets who try to rape her. She is saved by Fintan who claws their faces. One of the poets is angered and he vows he will spread horrible stories about her and he also curses her to die in seven days. He stabs her face with a needle. Luaine believes in the powers of curses and she decides to run away back to her ancestral home to await her death. Meanwhile, Fintan flies off to alert Cathbad about what happened. Cathbad sends his son, Geanann, who is a druid-in-training. Geanann tells her the needle is poisoned and that the healing process will be painful and result in her having a huge scar disfiguring her face.
Geanann tells Luaine that the King has not married her because he actually loves her – he is only marrying her so that he can control her lands. Before Luaine can fully heal, she hears news that the King is riding to her lands, expecting her to be dead. If she is not dead, he will kill her in secret. Luaine and her people – including Geanann – flee into the hills. Luaine eventually decides she will join the Isle of Women, where women may seek refuge and learn the druidic arts. When Luaine arrives at the Isle of Women, she is met by the head druidess, Tlachta, who makes her go through a series of tests to see whether she's suitable as a candidate.
Over the next few months, Luaine settles down into the daily tasks and lessons of a druidess-in-training. One night, she is visited by Liban again. This time Liban gives her a crystal and tells her that if she should ever need her help, she can summon her using this crystal. One day, Luaine is about to be indoctrinated as a full druid but she must travel to a sacred location. It is dangerous because the king happens to be nearby. Eventually, the King does confront her but Luaine is filled with a sudden cold rage that empowers her to stand up to the King and shame him for what he has done to her. She feels a sudden surge of druidic power from the crystal and the power almost seems to freeze the king in place. The king is so scared by this experience that he runs away and Luaine is sure she will never have trouble from him again.
After the ordeal, Luaine is visited by Geanann again. This time he professes his love for her and Luaine is happy. The story ends with her and Geanann vowing to pledge themselves to each other at the next Beltane Festival.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like that this story is about the daughter of Cuchulain, a mythological Irish hero. I also like how the story features the Tuatha Da Danaan and all the folklore associated with these beings.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was at the end of the story, when Luaine finds the courage to stand up to the king and uses her druidic powers to make sure he isn't a problem every again. It was a very liberating and powerful moment because, until that moment, Luaine had basically been exiled from Ulster and she had to hide herself away from the king.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Luaine strives to live up to the standards of honor and courage that her father, Cuchulainn, represented. As a result, she grew up into a strong, independent woman who can eke out a life for herself.