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The Radiant Road by Katherine Catmull: Review and Playlist!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A gorgeously written tale of magic, friendship, and self-discovery set in a dream-like landscape filled with fairies.

After years of living in America, Clare Macleod and her father are returning to Ireland, where they’ll inhabit the house Clare was born in—a house built into a green hillside with a tree for a wall. For Clare, the house is not only full of memories of her mother, but also of a mysterious boy with raven-dark hair and dreamlike nights filled with stars and magic. Clare soon discovers that the boy is as real as the fairy-making magic, and that they’re both in great danger from an ancient foe. 

Fast-paced adventure and spellbinding prose combine to weave a tale of love and loyalty in this young adult fantasy.

"A stunningly atmospheric, gorgeously complicated dream of a book." —Publishers Weeklystarred review

"An unforgettable tale . . . that contains all the darkness and light of A Midsummer Night's Dream." —School Library Journal, starred review

Goodreads Summary

My favorite part of this novel was the descriptions of the Irish countryside and the author's devotion to Clare's character.  The reader will meet Clare as she is preparing to move back to Ireland with her father.  She's a completely different person at the end of the novel.  She's intelligent, inquisitive, and a little wily.  Her character grew a lot throughout the novel as did the secondary characters.  I really enjoyed her discovery of the fae world and all that it implied-both dangerous and fascinating.  The more Clare becomes acquainted with the fae the deeper in danger she slides.  

The author has a way of writing that will make  it very difficult for the reader (as it did me!) to put down the book.  I felt like the author's way with words and subtle complexities fit a novel about fairies and mystery perfectly.   Finn, the dark haired boy, was both a surprise and forwarded the plot via his relationship to Clare.  I liked how the author focused on the secondary characters as well as Clare's character.  Overall, this book is recommended to young adult/teen readers.

4 Stars

Character playlist

In The Radiant Road, a girl named Clare, whose mother died when she was young, returns to Ireland and the house where she was born: a stone house hidden under a green hill, with a tree growing inside it. Inside the tree she finds a connection to a world she’d known as a child and forgotten all about; she finds a boy named Finn; and she finds great danger, to both his world and our own.

Some of these songs might seem a little ancient for a 15 year-old, but when she lived in America she spent a lot of time—too much time, frankly—trolling YouTube for interesting tunes.

1. “Painting by Chagall,” The Weepies. “We float like two lovers in a painting by Chagall” —no spoilers, but that’s very Clare and Finn in more ways than one. Also, though: “Everybody says you can’t you can’t you can’t, don’t try! but everybody says that if they had the chance, they’d fly, like we do.” Trying even when she might fail, when she’s most afraid to fail, is Clare’s story.

2. “Maybe in Another Year,” Jennie Pearl. An eerily pretty song from a 15 year-old girl in 1970. Teenagers who make or invent and put it out there are Clare’s soulmates—even ones like Jennie, who never make another song.

3. “Dark of the Matinee,” Franz Ferdinand. This might seem too fierce for dreamy Clare, but I don’t think so. This is just the sort of boy she’d like, and in some ways is just the sort of boy she finds.

4. “Heather Says,” by the Cowsills: Clare has had plenty of experience with nasty Heathers in her various schools. Also this is a great, weird song, and Clare values the weird.

5. “White Teeth Teens,” Lorde. See “Heather Says,” but five or six years later, and more bitterly serious. Invisible Clare would deeply appreciate this critique of those who enjoy high school a little more than they should.

6. “The Stolen Child,” The Waterboys. Clare has passionate distaste for the word “fairies,” but she does love the bits of Yeats she’s read in her late mother’s commonplace book. So she might like this lovely setting of one those poems: “Come away, human child, to the water and the wild.”

7. “Ending Song” by Keren Ann. “Sunny day—no one’s here. In the morning rain, there’s no clouds, and I hear, ‘Follow me . . . follow me . . .’” This is basically the story of someone experiencing a Strange—what Clare’s mother called a fairy-making—so it would be right up Clare’s alley.

8. “Starálfur,” by Sigur Rós — like most Sigur Rós songs, this has a Strange energy that Clare can relate to. You know Iceland must be littered with the makings of the Strange.

9. “Laughter Lines,” Bastille. “I'll see you in the future when we're older/And we are full of stories to be told . . .” I mean Clare just has this one on repeat, sometimes, and you know who she’s thinking of. So good.

10. “Sprout & the Bean,” Joanna Newsom: “Dreaming seamless dreams of lead”—honestly this whole song is a bit of a Strange—could Newsom be from Timeless? And she was only just out of her teens when she recorded this album.

11. “The Body of an American,” The Pogues. Surely Clare, poking around in closets, found one of her mother’s old Pogues CDs and fell for it hard, like any sane person? This song’s a good one for Clare, because it’s about an Irish American who returns home ( . . . to die, but let’s leave that aside).

12. “I’m On My Way,” The Proclaimers. Clare knows this not from Shrek—please—but from her Scottish father’s teenage copy of the The Proclaimers’ second album, which has a place of honor in his CD rack. Clare and her Dad sing this while they do the dishes, and if it makes him sad, remembering his dead wife, Clare sings in her thickest, most awful Scottish accent to cheer him up.

13. “Carrickfergus,” Van Morrison. Beautiful rendition of an Irish folk song of loss and grief. Clare listens to it when she needs to cry.

14. “You Were Cool,” The Mountain Goats. Clare would like everyone to know she already liked The Mountain Goats before John Green started talking about them. This song reminds her of someone she knew in school in Texas. That is all.

15. “The Parting Glass,” The Clancy Brothers. An old song but lovely, which her mother used to sing. Clare thought of this song when she left Finn and his people to go off to meet her beast.

This product or book may have been distributed for review, this in no way affects my opinions or reviews. COPYRIGHT © 2014 LIVE TO READ


  1. Lekeisha said...:

    That cover is very pretty, yet it freaks me out a little. I can't wait to read it. Great review and playlist!

  1. Betul E. said...:

    This sounds like a great read!!

    Betul E.

  1. I love a good Fae story! And this books cover is beautiful! I am definitely looking forward to this one!

  1. Oh, this sounds good. I would love to read it for the descriptions of Ireland alone.