The Emerald Key by Christopher Dinsdale, is a historial fiction novel that travels from Ireland to Canada in the mid-1800s. It’s a time that I know little about, other than my vague awareness that this was during the Irish Potato Famine – a tragedy which wiped out perhaps 20 to 25% of the population through death or emmigration. Being Canadian with distant Irish ancestors, I found it an interesting peek into the world at that time.
The book follows Jamie Galway, a young Irish priest, in his urgent quest to recover both his brother, Ryan, and the priceless book Ryan held. Jamie and Ryan are part of an ancient brotherhood, sworn to protect Irish heritage and a secret Irish treasure. They are given the job of transporting a book – the key to finding this treasure. Unfortunately, they are waylaid on their journey in an tumultuous encounter with British soldiers. Jamie comes-to and discovers that Ryan has been made an unwilling passenger on a ship bound for Canada, along with the precious book. As he seeks out his brother, Jamie explores a bit of Canada, shows off some unexpected skills (e.g. carpentry, sailing, breaking-and-entering, rappelling, and a bit of engineering), and picks up some orphan sidekicks. Unfortunately for Jamie, his trail is being followed by a greedy treasure-hunter, intent on getting his next big payoff.
The story moves quickly and is action-packed. Jamie is a likeable, if somewhat unrealistic character. He seems to be good at everything. I do appreciate his casual regard for the law (all in the name of the greater good, of course) and his ability to make friends every step of the way.
Overall, I though it was a good, fast-paced action book, if a little shallow. It had a lot of potential to show some hidden depths but they were never revealed. If you’re interested in historical fiction, particularly in early Canadian history, I would recommend it. My rating = 3.5 / 5