The best part of the book is the last 50 pages, so hang in there through the sections that are more difficult. This novel is a great example of historical fiction that is more historical than fiction. Llywelyn includes copious endnotes and builds this story upon the real people who led the Irish Rebellion of 1916. Ned Halloran is technically the main character but is really just her method of telling the stories of those leaders. Ned himself is an idealistic young Irishman who finds himself a student of Padraic Pearse and takes all of his teachings to heart.
Don't make the mistake that I did and glaze over while Pearse's friends are being introduced as characters. I found myself going back and rereading who was who as the details of the rebellion were opening up. This book causes one to question the validity of one country having power over another. Should the American colonies have remained faithful servants of Britian? We quickly answer, "No." However, we just as quickly defend the decision of the North to force the Southern states to remain a part of the Union not even 100 years later. What gives a people the right to govern themselves?
Though Llywelyn is clearly writing from the Irish point of view, she also does not villianize the British or put the Irish on a pedestal. There are sympathetic British characters and Irish characters who do not value the sacrifices being made for them. The attitude of "just stick to the status quo" is very present.
Throughout the story, we also get glimpses of the life of Kathleen Halloran, Ned's sister, but with no real resolution to her story. I assume this is continued in the next book in the series. I felt as though Kathleen's and even Ned's story were really secondary to the true story of the rebellion in this novel. Though I appreciate Llywelyn's accuracy and level of detail, it was difficult to connect to these major characters. Still, if you are a fan of historical fiction that is honest and not just romance during a different time period, I highly recommend this book.