Volume one of Macken's acclaimed Irish trilogy is an action-packed adventure story set during Cromwellian rule.
Dominick MacMahon, his wife slain in a bloody massacre, flees Drogheda with his two young children, Mary Ann and Peter, and a wounded priest, Sebastian, to set up a new life in the "fair land" which, according to an Irish proverb, is "over the brow of the hill". Dominick and his family battle ongoing starvation, deprivation and prosecution in their search for peace and freedom. But Coote of Connaught is on their trail as he relentlessly enforces the oath of abjuration across the land, forcing Catholics to abandon their faith in exchange for keeping their property and possessions. In these dark and treacherous times priests are imprisoned or executed without question, a risk which endangers Dominick's life on more than one occasion.
Written in 1959, Macken's prose is vividly descriptive if the style is somewhat stodgy and old fashioned. But this does not take away from the dramatic storyline and the moving way in which he depicts his character's struggles against a despicable enemy.