I've said I would write this blog for a while, after discussing the subject in bits and pieces on social media so here we are. I want to preface this by saying though that this isn't an indictment of the author in question personally nor am I saying she did this consciously nor intentionally. This isn't me trying to bash the series; I'm picking it as one example out of many because its popular and because we need to have this conversation. This is me trying to get people to be more aware of a particularly insidious aspect of anti-Irish propaganda that has been around for centuries and continues because its almost a trope now, as much as the idea of Irish and Irish folklore as inherently fantastic (which Orla ní Dhúill discusses in depth in her article 'Do Fantasy Writers Think Irish Is Discount Elvish?).
So. Let's talk about the anti-Irishness of A Court of Thorns and Roses series.
First, establishing the Irish connection as it were, and no its not the folklore that may or may not have been used in the series. Or the use of Morrigan as a name for one of the secondary characters. Maas tells a tale of a world that has both mortal lands and lands of fairy and offers a map in the books which shows what the main areas of the story look like and are called. The map is basically a slightly reworked Ireland and Great Britain. Its not subtle:
|my actual face contemplating the side by side comparison of these maps|
Prythian is where the 7 fairy courts of Maas's story are, roughly everything north of Cornwall in Britain. Hybern is also ruled by the fae, but as we'll get to in a moment of a very different nature. Prythian seems to be a form of the Welsh Prydain, an old word for Britain; Hybern is obviously based on Hibernia, the Latin name for Ireland. Like the map this isn't particularly subtle and I am not the first person to make this connection. So we have a map that is basically Ireland and Britain and a name for those places that is also, basically, Ireland and Britain. Further to the Irish aspect of this the king of Hybern (who is never named) has a nephew named Dagdan, one letter off from the Irish god the Dagda, and a niece named Brannagh, a name that is often said to be from the Irish word for raven. The warriors of the Hybern king are called Ravens, a bird that features prominently in Irish mythology.
So this gives us, effectively, fantasy pseudo-Ireland, which isn't a bad thing in and of itself.
Generally speaking the Hybernians are depicted as violent, vicious, amoral, and evil. They use poison as a weapon against other fae, use torture, delight in killing humans, and want to subjugate not only humans but the other fae who sided with humans in the war.
At best its very sloppy, lazy world building with cringey results. At worst its leaning into hibernophobia to intentionally bring those things to mind with readers. We can and must do better.