The New Policeman, Kate Thompson’s first book revolving around the Liddy family’s relationship with Tír ná n’Óg (in Irish mythology, the land of eternal youth) and its fairy inhabitants, was quite good.
The Last of the High Kings is better.
J.J. Liddy, a teenager at the time of his first adventure, is now a grown man – mostly – with a wife and four children, ranging from two and a half to seventeen years old. Everyone’s fully fleshed-out – with the possible exception of the two year old, but he’s too young to do much other than wreak havoc – but it’s the eleven year old daughter and the (I think) nine year old son who claim all the glory. She’s friends with a púka and a ghost, and he’s friends with their elderly neighbor, who claims to be the last of the High Kings of Ireland, and wants to go to the Beacon at the top of the hill one more time before he dies. J.J. just wants to get his supply of chiming maple from Aengus Óg so he can make the best fiddles the world has seen since Stradivarius, and be home more to help his wife with the children, to boot. It takes all three of these plots coming together to save the human race, who, of course, never knew how close they were to destruction. Not even J.J. knows; most of that burden is reserved for eleven-year-old Jenny.
Jenny’s a difficult character done well. She’s by nature feckless and flightly, and has a great deal of trouble understanding what other people are feeling – or even remembering to wonder – but eventually she’s forced to focus and empathize. It would be easy for that transition to ring false, but it doesn’t; Thompson has done her job well, so when it happens, it makes sense.
Thompson manages her other challenges with equal aplomb. The book is well-balanced among characters of disparate ages and temperaments. J.J. himself has aged well, being both convincingly adult and recognizably consistent with the teenager introduced in The New Policeman.
The fairies, living as they do in the land of eternal youth, haven’t aged a day.