War, death, lust and scheming in the starkly beautiful landscapes of medieval Ireland and Wales is the backdrop to a Mid Ulster author’s debut novel, which has been released this week.
Swordland, by Cookstown author Edward Ruadh Butler, was launched in paperback and e-book form by Welsh publisher Accent Press at the start of February.
The novel has already garnered acclaim from reviewers who praised its ‘intrigue and spine-chilling bloody action’, and its ‘lucid, descriptive style’ which ‘brings to life landscapes, characters and battles’ of the 12th century.
Swordland tells the story of Robert FitzStephen, an arrogant, cold, but brilliant warrior from the Welsh frontier whose struggles to subdue the native princes leads to his defeat and imprisonment. Disgraced, he seems doomed to a life of obscurity and shame.
Then Diarmait Mac Murchada comes seeking FitzStephen’s help. Forced to flee from his Irish throne by the High King, Diarmait seeks to reclaim his lands by any means possible – and that includes inviting the Normans to follow him to Ireland as mercenaries.
With nothing left to lose – and perhaps a great deal to gain – FitzStephen agrees to lead the Irishman’s armies, and to drive Diarmait’s enemies from his kingdom. His price? Acceptance and glory, or perhaps a kingdom of his own?
“I started writing Swordland after doing some research into my family tree,” said Butler. “This brought me back to the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169 - something that I knew only the scantest details about.
“The more I read into the subject the more I realised that many of my preconceived notions about the period were completely wrong and that there is a far more complex and exciting story hidden behind the 800 years which have passed since 1169.
“Swordland is as bloody as any chapter from Game of Thrones, and the characters are as conniving as any from House of Cards. But this isn’t fiction - the events in the book actually took place in this country and were carried out by our ancestors.”
About the author
Edward Ruadh Butler is a former Mid-Ulster Mail and Tyrone Times reporter.
Having always enjoyed reading historical fiction by authors such as Bernard Cornwell, Patrick O’Brian, George MacDonald Fraser, Robert Louis Stevenson and Conn Iggulden, he decided to try his hand at his own story.
He began writing through his lunch hour each day while alone in the office and after a year, had finished the first draft of what would become Swordland.
“I soon felt confident enough to send the manuscript through to a few agents and after a few rejections was surprised that one wished to represent me,” he said.
“A couple of years later the book was lucky enough to get picked up by Accent Press.
“I’m currently finishing up the second in what I hope will be a series of eight books about the Normans in Ireland.”