Niall Griffiths burst onto the literary scene in 2000 with Grits, a ferocious novel narrated through a revolving series of vernacular voices as hard-bitten as the landscape which they inhabited. Sheepshagger is in many ways a sharpening of focus, with the political and mythical sweep of Grits revisited through the central figure of Ianto, who makes his second appearance. In Griffiths's second novel, the dynamism propelled by Grits's polyphonic cameos is achieved through plot, developed as much through Ianto as through an exploration of the devastating landscape from which he is inseparable. Ianto is an inscrutable and autistic figure, patronised by his contemporaries. He is barely socialised, hardly speaks, and is disenfranchised from childhood - a childhood that "would've turned Mother fucking Teresa into a murderer, mun" - fuelling a parallel image of Wales as a nation which never quite managed to find its eloquence again after its annexation to England in the 16th Century. Seeing his ancestral home bought up by English yuppies galvanises his bitterness into revenge, leading to unspeakable savagery. Yet, Sheepshagger is no nationalist parable. Where lambs can be blinded by ravens, their eyes pulled out, cords hanging, the lurid killings which Ianto commits are as much an act of revenge on this surreptitious colonialism as on the violence of the barren mountains which bred him. Compared to Cormac McCarthy and Faulkner in its ragged intensity of language, which can soar as dramatically as the landscape it inhabits, Sheepshagger is an acute yet lyrical novel which confirms Niall Griffiths's growing reputation.
'With a modern sensibility informed by Greek tragedy and the Blakean sublime, Sheepshagger demands total engagement, and is never less than compelling; the range of Griffiths's achievement is as exhilarating as the reach of his ambition.'
'A hymn both ancient and modern to place and to unsentimental belonging, it functions ultimately as a celebration - despite (or perhaps becuase of) its dark, marginal focus on life in all its ragged glory and fecundity.'