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How did this book come about? It is soon told. I read the Irish sagas of the Ulster cycle for the first time, and found myself delighted by the many well-drawn female characters. It seemed to me that the closest mythic parallel in the West is Homer’s Odyssey, which includes Circe, Calypso, Nausicaa, Queen Arete, Helen, and Penelope. So vivid are the female characters in the Odyssey that they have inspired theories of female authorship, yet to the modern reader, the omniscient narrator’s masculine perspective is clear enough. Likewise, in the Irish saga, the presence of powerful women is thrilling, but it goes hand-in-hand with an aristocratic, patriarchal point of view that sees every woman first and foremost as mistress, wife or daughter to a man.


The statue of Cúchulainn in the General Post Office in Dublin, sculpted in 1935 by Oliver Sheppard. Photo by Lonneke.

In this tale too, a singular hero binds together a group of women. Yet I hope that my story enlivens the female characters of the saga by suggesting that although Cúchulainn enters the sphere of each woman for a time, she has a life and interests of her own, both before his hero-light blazes like a comet across her sky, and after it inevitably fades.

In the time of Christ, in the still-pagan land of Éire, there lived a hero named Cúchulainn, known to the warriors of Ulster as the Hound of Culann. Like Achilles, he was fated to die young, yet his glorious deeds would resound through history. This is the story of the women he knew.

It’s also the story of Tabitha Hill, a woman of the twenty-first century, who unexpectedly finds a hero of the Iron Age invading her dreams…