Photo copyright Jon Crispin 2011.

Photo copyright Jon Crispin 2011

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Finished rereading My Lady Judge by Cora Harrison, first in the series about Lady Mara, a Brehon judge in 16th-century Ireland. 

This is just as good the second time around, if not even better than the first reading. Lady Mara's good sense, her budding romance with the not-too-bright, but manly king, her dealings and insight into the character of her students make this series one of the best I've ever read. I love learning about Brehon law, too. Compared to English law of the time, it was humane and just. Unfortunately, it works best in a close-knit community of people with strong clan ties. In a large city full of individuals with no ties to a community, accountable to no one outside themselves, it breaks down. If you liked Sister Fidelma, you will love Judge Mara even more. For one thing, her hair is not rebellious.

The books are set in a part of Ireland called The Burren, which is very rocky. Most of the words I learned from this book had to do with geology:

clints and grykes are fissures in limestone. Lady Mara plants her rock garden in the fissures and grykes around her home. She likes to plant herbs and flowers with strong scents, so the sweet smell is released when people walk on the sturdy plants.

hoggets are young sheep, betw 1-2 years, too old to be lambs, but not old enough to be called sheep yet.

Another plant she likes is sweet cicely. I only know Cicely as a girl's name, never knew it was a flower. It's very closely related to anise.

Sometimes they picnic in the garden and carry the food out in willow pottles, small basket made just for this use.

Sometimes she plants avens, sturdy little flowers that do well in rocky soil. Here's a picture: 

File:Dryas octopetala a4.jpg