Ronan Boyle and the Swamp of Certain Death: Ronan Boyle, Book 2

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Ronan Boyle and the Swamp of Certain Death: Ronan Boyle, Book 2 Book Poster Image
More gross, wacky, hysterical fun in Ronan's rescue quest.

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age 9+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

There's a lot of Irish culture going on here (a lot of which is made-up and unreliable compared with more traditional narratives).  Also present-day Irish local color and a bit of Gaelic vocabulary along the way, as Ronan is a proud member of the Garda (police).

Positive Messages

Strong messages of family (no matter how inept), friendship (no matter how odd), courage (no matter how much you are absolutely not the right person for the task at hand), tenacity (however overwhelming the obstacles), and creative thinking (however deranged). Also, the vital importance of everyone's particular skills in the moment, as in, sometimes it's really handy to have a shape-shifter on the team.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ronan, is the geeky, anxious teen child of two spacey academics who blunder innocently into lots of trouble (in Book 1, they'd not only managed to get themselves framed for antiquities theft, once in prison they were soon recruited by rival gangs). He realizes that confused and overwhelmed though he might be, he's just got to deal. Especially since he has to save the Captain, with whom he is not, NOT, in love. Considering the wild situations that come up, this attitude serves him well. His good friend Log, large, powerful, and definitely a little warped by her childhood among the wee folk, supplies courage, wisdom, and maniacal fighting skills. Rí and Lily the wolfhounds, Garda officers both, display loyalty, bravery, resourcefulness, and a strong dedication to duty.


Most of the violence is cartoonish and comical ("non-fatal stabbings" are pretty much like mosquito bites in Tir Na Nog, and you're going to sustain a lot of them if you go there). But there's a lot of it, especially shillelagh-wielding by people who know how to wield a shillelagh. Strange monsters abound. A number of peripheral characters may or may not have committed murder in their past lives. The Captain and wolfhound Lily, heroines of Book 1, have been abducted to Tir Na Nog, where it proves the Captain is the intended victim of human sacrifice to an old, creepy Irish god. In one scene, characters are attacked by snakes, who flee when one of the characters starts telling them Bible stories.


Ronan and Log (whose real name is Lara) hold hands in moments of extreme stress. Ronan suspects he's actually in love with the Captain (whom they're trying to save) but keeps insisting he couldn't possibly be.


"Eejit" (idiot) is a common insult. Bathroom, fart, and gross-out humor aplenty.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Every Irish stereotype ever concocted with regard to drinking whiskey and smoking clay pipes gets a good workout here. Consuming explosive fart-inducing hot pickles as one's drug of choice is a common vice among the wee folk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ronan Boyle and the Swamp of Certain Death is the second volume of Thomas Lennon's saga pitting its reluctant hero and his friends against a whole lot of criminal-minded wee folk (including leprechauns, banshees, and other magical beings). Who, at the end of Book 1, abducted the brave Captain Siobhan and heroic wolfhound Lily to Tir Na Nog for some nefarious purpose -- and now, against all odds and common sense, the geeky, angsty Ronan is tasked with getting her back. As the loony tale unfolds, there's a steady barrage of bathroom humor, fart humor, gross-out humor, and violence from expert shillelagh-whacking to "non-fatal stabbings," which aren't even a crime in Tir Na Nog. Also plentiful: Every known Irish stereotype regarding whiskey, clay pipes, and a fondness for trickery. Friendship, courage, tenacity, and the ability to deal with unexpected perils, from a fat unicorn's lousy lounge act to a lake full of snakes, rule the  day.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bytpatlennon May 20, 2020

Fun Reading.

I wrote this book to keep your kids, and funny grown ups in laughter for as long as possible.

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What's the story?

RONAN BOYLE AND THE SWAMP OF CERTAIN DEATH finds the Irish police's most unlikely hero on an urgent quest to rescue the formidable Captain Siobhan and stalwart wolfhound, Lily. The end of Book 1 found them dragged off to Tir Na Nog for some unknown but obviously dire reason. Accompanied by his friend Log (who was kidnapped as a baby and raised by leprechauns), the brave dog Rí, and a puka with shape-shifting skills and a bad hot-pickle habit, Ronan enters an unpredictable, gross world loaded with peril. And also opportunities to discover unforeseen character strengths. 

Is it any good?

Book 1 was a little uneven, but author Thomas Lennon pretty much hits it out of the park in his second installment pitting Ronan against an endless, comically criminal lot of the wee folk. Leprechauns, churichauns, banshees, pukas, far darrigs and a whole lot of other hostile troublemakers, to say nothing of a unicorn with a posse of goons and a really bad lounge act, await our hero and his friends as Ronan Boyle and the Swamp of Certain Death sweeps them to their likely doom. John Hendrix's dramatically cartoonish illustrations make the characters and their wacky perils especially vivid.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Irish tales involving the wee folk. What other stories do you know that involve them? Are they always pretty much up to no good, as in Ronan Boyle and the Swamp of Certain Death, or do they ever show a kinder side?

  • If your parents were sent to prison for something they didn't do, as Ronan's were, what would you do? Who would you call?

  • It's a well-known legend that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Ronan Boyle and the Swamp of Certain Death has an interesting theory of where they went. Where do you think they went? Do you know any other stories where they turn up unexpectedly?

Book details

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For kids who love adventure and Ireland

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