Imagine if Gandalf came to Frodo at the start of Lord of the Rings, telling him he must go on a quest to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom deep in the heart of Mordor, except instead of Frodo embarking on said adventure, he told Gandalf to ‘do one’ with his ‘ring ballix.’ And you’d have something closer to Laurence Donaghy’s Folk’d series, the third and final installment of which, Completely Folk’d, is due for release on the 26th March.
All of Ireland has magically disappeared from the map and been plunged into the nightmarish otherworld and overrun with all sort of beasties. Danny Morrigan, descendant of the ancient Irish goddess of War, has completed his vision quest undertaken in Folk’d Up, and now must (begrudgingly) accept his fate as the saviour of Ireland, and perhaps mankind, and reclaim his taken son from the clutches of the evil witch-goddess Carman.
Finishing a trilogy is, one assumes, not an easy task. You have to tie up all the loose ends, reach a satisfying climax, and if it’s not too much trouble have an almighty good versus evil scrap in there as well. I’m very happy to report that Completely Folk’d ticks all those boxes, avoids all the potential pitfalls and provides a stunning conclusion to the finest trilogy of fantasy novels I’ve read in a long time.
As per the previous two books Completely Folk’d wastes no time in throwing you into the story at full speed and expecting you to keep up. It is relentlessly paced, bouncing between cities and dimensions, often in different time periods, with gleeful abandon. Dealing with death (so much death), rebirth, betrayal, double crosses, triple crosses, quadruple crosses, redemption, damnation, gods and monsters, ancient myths and legends, Lovecraftian nightmares, badass wolves, familial strife (both human and…not human) and destiny, you could be forgiven for thinking that the story of Danny trying to reclaim his kidnapped baby boy would get lost in the mix. Yet Donaghy never loses sight of the true reason for all the madness, creating a truly affecting throughline of a father’s love for his son that drives the plot forward.
And though Danny is the de facto protagonist throughout the whole trilogy, Completely Folk’d turns into the story of (at least) three different characters, Danny, Ellie and Steve. A Belfast tri-fecta around which the plot revolves, each with their own arcs that take them, quite literally in some cases, to Hell and back. It’s refreshing too to have the women characters be just as strong and as prominent as the men, moreso in the majority of cases, and Donaghy writes both the human women and the goddesses with aplomb. And if there’s a more entertaining and transformative arc than that of Steve’s, a character who could have so easily been the ‘comic relief best friend,’ I’ll eat my hat; his story contains several ‘punch the air’ moments, in a book full of them.
Also, Completely Folk’d is just as riotously funny as its predecessors, puncturing the grandiose settings and creatures with just the right amount of Belfastian swagger, yet never feels glib or at the expense of the seriousness of the situation. That’s just how these incredibly well drawn characters would react to the outlandish circumstances they find themselves in, even if they are in the familiar environment of Castlecourt Shopping Centre.
An engrossing read from start to finish, Completely Folk’d ends in an unexpected but similarly inevitable way (if you’ve been paying attention thus far anyway) that will leave you feeling satisfied and with a massive smile on your face. Completely Folk’d made me laugh, cry and cheer.
Completely Folk’d launches this Thursday 26th of March at 6PM at Forbidden Planet, Belfast, where you’ll be able to meet with the author himself (@LarboIreland) and pick up all the books in the trilogy. Hope to see you there.
Review copy courtesy of Blackstaff Press (@BlackstaffNI @BSP_Fantasy)