"I had originally touted my manuscript... as a children’s book, then as a young adult’s book—only to be informed by 'experts' that it failed to satisfy the criteria of either category. Even teenagers, I was told—especially teenagers—want to read all about themselves and only about themselves. If that’s so, then they are well embarked upon the dominant obsession of American adulthood… but I don’t believe it. When I was an adolescent, I loathed being condescended to by adults who claimed to know my problems, to understand my ‘special needs’…. [In Defenders of the Five Realms], I wanted to write a jaunty little echo of the Táin Bó Cúalnge or Herodotus’s Histories, and I think I did so." author’s preface

Defenders of the Five Realms

written and illustrated by John Harris

ISBN: 0-9676054-1-5  $12.95 (but see special offer); paperbound with 14 black ink illustrations

A lot has been said over the past decade--by people ranging from Bill Bennett to Laura Schlesinger-- about our society's grave need of moral self-discipline.  Creating morally responsible fiction might not be a bad start, as Mr. Bennett's comments about the Western tradition suggest.  Yet the Celtic fantasy, though ever popular with young audiences, remains a utopian realm where beautiful people magically induce the forces of evil to disappear in a puff, finding good things as the smoke clears.  Not much moral insight there--nor is this an effective answer to the crisis involving boys and violence.  Do we pretend that violence doesn't exist, or only in faraway lands and times?  What does honor mean for a boy of today?

John Harris happens to have read hundreds of Irish legends in Gaelic, and to have translated a few.  Their moral lessons are often hard-nosed, never saccharine.  In Defenders, he seeks to unite the more sophisticated elements of the Western tradition--the patience, courage, humility, and self-sacrifice from which manly virtue is woven--with the tall-tale style of the Celtic fantasy.  The result is far less escapist than you might expect... a far more mature.  Perhaps, indeed, this is less a tale for boys than a tarn for adults who enjoy the circular, verbally playful style of traditional lore; for Defenders is so full of alliterations, word play, proverbs, rhymes, and the rest that presenting it to today's ten-year-old may be as bootless as attempting to read it while the TV blares.  

For an excerpt, a synopsis, and a range of critical responses to this novel, please click here.

Two of 14  illustrations by the author: a dragon ship landing and Ronan taunting the aggressors.

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