The story begins with Thomas O’Brien on a desperate mission to ransom his lady Mary from the O’Malleys, a brutal band of brothers using Mary as collateral for a loan. It’s told with conviction, a clear direction, and a steady pace, which leaves little room for surprises.Very quickly, there are hints Mary is no ordinary damsel. Too quickly. It raises expectations too early, which, even at the height of the drama, are never quite surpassed.
There were genuine moments of tension along the way, little moments of uncertainty and dread where I feared right along with Thomas, and I enjoyed the moments where his God-fearing personality came out. Yet, at other times, I wanted to shake him out of his passivity. It’s understandable that Thomas would be rendered dumbstruck by some of the incredible occurences, due to the time period, but he seemed timid, lacking initiative or at the very least a visceral need to protect his “spring flower” from immediate harm. It made me wonder what kind of a person he was outside this series of events—we’re treated to only one memory of him and Mary going for a stroll—and that left me feeling like he was more a vehicle for the plot and less a fully-rendered person with a history.
Similarly, Mary and the mysterious Samaritan wanted for a dash of uniqueness. We learn they share an unusual secret, but there’s not much else to sympathize with. They fulfill their roles as do the O’Malley’s, and by the end their motives are clear, but they simply did not make much of an impression on me.
While the characters were a little lukewarm, and the plot fairly predictable, the Old West setting provided the right amount of appeal, atmosphere, and immersion throughout, employed well as a contrast to the main conflict and mystery. The resolution didn’t offer much of an explanation for what had occurred, which may be unsatisfactory for readers unfamiliar with genre tropes, but I thought it was fitting and could fill in the blanks of the questions left unanswered.
Yes, there are problems with the writing—tedious in some places and numerous errors in others—but on the whole, it made for a light and easy read.