We take you now to a small upstairs back bedroom at 36A Crumlin Street, South Boston, Massachusetts. Sitting on the bed but looking far from comfortable is Conor O’Neill, age 12. The source of his unease is in a nearby beanbag chair: Ashling, daughter of Maedoc of the Uí Néill, with her long red braid, green ankle-length tunic and red cloak. Killed by cattle raiders in fifth century Ireland, she now is a banshee, an ancestral spirit who conducts her family’s new dead to the Other Land.
Ashling is much cheerier than Conor. She’s never sat in a beanbag chair before.
“You have this ‘new year’ all wrong,” she says. “Look outside, would you—it’s the depths of winter. What a miserable time for a year to begin.”
Conor, who hasn’t slept well, can’t get up enough energy to argue. “Ashling. Just say your resolution and get it over with.” He sees her brow furrow. “A resolution is what you intend to do in the new year.”
Ashling brightens. “Ach, well, that’s as plain as your nose. I’ll get my Death—someone in this household, and very soon. I’ll take my Dear Departed to the Lady, and she will give me my new life, back in the World at last. And this time”—her face darkens—“there’ll be nobody putting an ax through my head, that I tell you true.”
Conor figures he might as well get it out there. “My resolution is to keep my family alive.” He adds, for clarification: “And me, too. I’m going to stay alive too.”
Ashling smiles. “We’ll see about that, won’t we, Conor-boy?”
Perpetual scaredy-cat Conor O’Neill has the fright of his life when a banshee named Ashling shows up in his bedroom. Ashling is—as all banshees are—a harbinger of death, but she’s new at this banshee business, and first she insists on going to middle school.
Even as Conor desperately tries to hide her identity from his classmates and teachers, he realizes there’s no way to avoid paying a visit to the underworld if he wants to keep his family safe.
A middle-grade fantasy coming August 15, 2013, from Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers