Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: My Lady Judge by Cora Harrison

Title: My Lady Judge
Author: Cora Harrison
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: MacMillan, 2007


 Ireland, the Burren, 1509...........visit this wild and windswept north western corner of County Clare today and much would be the same as it was then. The strange limestone formations, ancient dolmens and celtic crosses, the great cliffs with giant waves crashing on the rocks below and the ruins of tiny stone cottages which dot the landscape. An amazing place.

In 1509 , far across the sea in England the young Henry VIII had succeeded to his father's throne but here on the Burren the people still lived peacefully by the ancient Brehon laws of their ancestors. A law which focused on confession, negotiation and reparation and relied heavily on the consensus and cooperation of the community, despising the barbaric English law with its cruel punishments.
Many of the Brehon laws were passed on verbally but later in the 16th century a group of scholars would record and preserve them for posterity. A fascinating glimpse into these laws is can be found at the beginning of each chapter ...........excerpt chapter 15 ( Cain Lananna - The Law of Marriage)

Imscarad, divorce is permitted for many reasons. In the following cases the woman may retain her coibche, bride price:
1. If the man leaves her for another woman
2. If the man is impotent or homosexual
3. if he is so fat as to be incapable of intercourse
4. If the man relates secrets of the marriage bed in the alehouse.

A most enlightened society where woman were accorded a great deal more respect than was found elsewhere!
Mara , the central character of the story is an independent,  divorced woman ( on the grounds of the loose alehouse tongue) . She is the Brehon of the Burren, an investigating magistrate, a judge and lawgiver........trained from her childhood and following in her father's footsteps she is an important and well respected member of her community who also runs a law school where she teaches and prepares young students for a career in law.

On the eve of the May Day festival the people of the Burren celebrated. lighting fires and singing and dancing through the night on Mullaghmore mountain, then returning home in the grey dawn to the safety of their own homes.
But one man did not come back the steeply spiralled path - his body lay exposed to the ravens and the wolves, and no one spoke of him or told what they had seen.

When Mara begins the investigation she is met with a wall of silence .........noone liked the dead man, there were many who were happy to hear of his demise and all would close ranks to protect the one they imagine has committed the crime. It will take all her skill and powers of deduction to find the answers.

A delightful little book that I really enjoyed is the first of a series that will feature Mara so I must look out for more. It will appeal to any lover of historical fiction, particularly if you like a little mystery with your history, with a well constructed plot, fascinating historical details and a charming leading lady.

Royal Reviews Historical Fiction Challenge

Year of the Historical 2010 Challenge.


  1. Glad to know you enjoyed this. I've had it on my radar for a while now and your is the first review I've seen. Thank you for reviewing it.

  2. I am liking the premise of this one, and the Brehon law sounds nice, we did have some rights

  3. Hope you'll enjoy too - it's nice easy reading.

    Blodeuedd....I liked the fact it was so civilised and peaceable. Not something I knew of but wanting to learn more now.

  4. This sounds fascinating! I'm glad it's the first in a series. Thanks for the great review.