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It’s a question that keeps popping up: Why aren’t there more fantasy novels and short story collections rooted in Celtic mythology?
For the past several decades, Greek and Norse mythology have been hogging the limelight, with your Percy Jacksons and your Thors and Lokis dominating printed and digital pages (not to mention silver screens).
And while fantastical tales rooted in Celtic mythology—and its best-preserved form, Irish mythology—may seem few and far between, the good news is there are plenty of them out there. Provided you know where to look. (Hint: under that big rock in your grandma’s backyard.)
So, I got out my shovel and did some digging. The result is this list of popular fantasy books based on Irish and Celtic fantasy. While not comprehensive by any means, it should hopefully serve to tickle your Celtic fantasy fancy.
The Top 10 Irish and Celtic Fantasy Books
1. Emerald Magic: Great Tales of Irish Fantasy
by multiple authors (including Ray Bradbury)
Per the publisher: “Mythology and magic come alive in this collection of Irish fantasy stories by some of today’s finest authors. Ireland is a nation that holds fast to its history and heritage, and nowhere is that more true than in its folktales and legends. From the great Celtic myths featuring the bard Taliesin, the terrible Morrigan, the heroic Cuchulain, or the noble and cunning Sidhe to strange and mysterious tales of today, the stories and traditions of the Emerald Isle hold a strong attraction for many.” Learn more…
2. A Celtic Darkness: Supernatural Tales of Ireland
by Eoghain Hamilton
Per the publisher: “A Celtic Darkness is a collection of short ghost stories based on the supernatural legend and folklore of Ireland. It is a new work that examines the hidden less travelled pathways of the Irish haunted landscape. Using local settings, Hamilton introduces a collection that takes the reader on several nightmarish journeys into an Ireland that is both rarely seen and very very disturbing. Read this collection with the light on for once the reader is immersed in the Celtic Darkness, they may find it difficult to find your way out.” Learn more…
3. Awakening (The Morrigan Chronicles, Book One)
by N. A. Montgomery
Per the publisher: “The Morrigan – Celtic Goddess of War, Fate and Death. I am a warrior of the Tuatha de Danann. History writes us as a supernatural race in Irish mythology that battled demons and the Fomorians – a race similar to ours and our rivals. The last thing I remember, I fought alongside King Arthur and his men against the Fomoire and an evil God. Then… I remember nothing. I am Morrigan, but I am no Goddess and no myth.” Learn more…
4. This Is No Time to Quit Drinking: Teacher Burnout and the Irish Powers
by Stephen O’Connor
Per the publisher: “Ah, the unfortunate Bartley Hannigan. Teacher burnout is just one of his problems. There’s also his disintegrating marriage, the inheritance of a haunted property with its uninvited bibulous guest, a psycho poet with a fatal attraction, the arrival of an Irish banshee hunter with poor personal hygiene, his sudden passion for a stripper, and eventually, the hit man on his trail. But as the gypsy said, this “shit-storm” will lead to either a higher plane of understanding—or sudden death.” Learn more…
5. Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book One)
by Kevin Hearne
Per the publisher: “Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.” Learn more…
6. Savage Her Reply
by Deirdre Sullivan
Per the publisher: “A retelling of the favourite Irish fairytale The Children of Lir. Aífe marries Lir, a chieftain with four children by his previous wife. Jealous of his affection for his children, the witch Aífe turns them into swans for 900 years. Retold through the voice of Aífe, Savage Her Reply is unsettling and dark, feminist and fierce, yet nuanced in its exploration of the guilt of a complex character. A dark & witchy feminist retelling from the author of Tangleweed and Brine.” Learn more…
7. Irish Imbas: Celtic Mythology Collection 1 (Celtic Mythology Collection Series)
by multiple authors
Per the publisher: “This collection by a new wave of contemporary authors hauls Celtic stories out of the dusty shadows and places them back into the light where they belong. Love, mystery and drama, these fascinating tales mark a new movement of more authentic and original Celtic-based writing and a better understanding of Celtic cultures. Subjects covered in this collection include the ‘Fairies’, the ‘Salmon of Knowledge’, the ‘Children of Lir’ and the ‘Selkie’.” Learn more…
8. Highland Raven (The Celtic Blood Series, Book One)
by Melanie Karsak
Per the publisher: “Scotland, 1026–Descendant of the line of MacAlpin, Gruoch should have been born into a life of ease. But fate is fickle. Her father’s untimely death, rumored to have been plotted by King Malcolm, leaves her future uncertain and stained by the prophecy that she will avenge her family line. Escaping to one of the last strongholds of the old Celtic gods, Gruoch becomes an adept in arcane craft. Her encounters with the otherworld, however, suggest that magic runs stronger in Scotland than she ever imagined.” Learn more…
9. Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma (The Fionn mac Cumhaill Series, Book One)
by Brian O’Sullivan
Per the publisher: “IRELAND: 192 A.D. A time of strife and treachery. Political ambition and inter-tribal conflict has set the country on edge, testing the strength of long-established alliances. Following the success of their ambush at Cnucha, the Clann Morna tribe are hungry for power. Meanwhile, mysterious war parties roam the forests and a ruthless ‘Tainted One’ is intent on murder. In the secluded valley of Glenn Ceoch, a disgraced druid and a woman warrior have successfully avoided the bloodshed for many years. Now, the arrival of a pregnant refugee threatens the peace they’ve created together.” Learn more…
10. The Drumcliffe Pilots
by Kieran Devaney
Per the publisher: “It’s 1889. In a great cavern, deep below the picturesque, sleepy, west of Ireland seafaring village of Rosses Point, a battle is about to begin which will decide the future of mankind. It will be the Sidhe or the Faerie world, unite with the old enemy, the Bean Sidhe. Spear-heading the battle will be the Drumcliffe pilots, three great white swans, who were gifted immortality by the legendary Queen Maeve. In return they must spend eternity traveling through time looking for the souls of the people of Connaught.” Learn more…
Want to learn about the darker side of Irish mythology? Check out…
Samhain in Your Pocket (Celtic Pocket Guides 2)
Perhaps the most important holiday on the ancient Celtic calendar, Samhain marks the end of summer and the beginning of a new pastoral year. It is a liminal time—a time when the forces of light and darkness, warmth and cold, growth and blight, are in conflict. A time when the barrier between the land of the living and the land of the dead is at its thinnest. A time when all manner of spirits and demons are wont to cross over from the Celtic Otherworld. Learn more…
Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Fantasy
“A thrilling romp through pubs, mythology, and alleyways. NEON DRUID is such a fun, pulpy anthology of stories that embody Celtic fantasy and myth,” (Pyles of Books). Cross over into a world where the mischievous gods, goddesses, monsters, and heroes of Celtic mythology live among us, intermingling with unsuspecting mortals and stirring up mayhem in cities and towns on both sides of the Atlantic, from Limerick and Edinburgh to Montreal and Boston. Learn more…
More the listenin’ type?
I recommend the audiobook Celtic Mythology: Tales of Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes by Philip Freeman (narrated by Gerard Doyle). Use my link to get 3 free months of Audible Premium Plus and you can listen to the full 7.5-hour audiobook for free.
Last thing, I promise:
Introducing the official Irish Myths YouTube channel. Same Celtic flavor, new bold format.