THE PENDRAGON CYCLE
Stephen Lawhead has written two genre-spanning series which are fantastical retellings of historical legends: The Pendragon Cycle (King Arthur) and The King Raven Trilogy (Robin Hood). I didn't like The Pendragon Cycle as well as I liked The Song of Albion, which was a later and better work. The story was too slow for me and the writing was not nearly as polished.
However, there are a lot of fans of this rendering of Arthur, I think because Lawhead does a lot of research, which makes his worlds believable. He is particularly good with Celtic lore. There is much to learn and enjoy here, but I was a bit impatient with the slow pace.
My library, which has a very small selection of downloadable audiobooks, actually carrie... Read More
Stephen Lawhead(1950- )
Stephen Lawhead also writes science fiction and other works. Stephen Lawhead’s website.
The Pendragon Cycle — (1987-1999) Publisher: This story begins with the tragedy of Atlantis and the arrival in Britain of King Avallach and the heroic figure of Prince Taliesin. In the twilight of Rome’s power, a tale is told of a love that spawns the miracle of Merlin and Arthur, and a destiny that is more than a kingdom.
THE PENDRAGON CYCLE
The Song of Albion — (1991-1993) Publisher: Two Oxford graduate students stumble upon a stone cairn in Scotland and enter a magical “Otherworld” at once removed from and intimately connected to their own reality, becoming embroiled in an ancient battle against an evil that threatens both worlds. Lawhead, whose Pendragon Cycle established him as a frontrunner among contemporary Christian fantasists, demonstrates a genuine love for and understanding of Anglo-Celtic mythology.
Available for download at Audible.com
THE SONG OF ALBION
My husband bought me the The Song of Albion trilogy because Lawhead is a Christian and he thought I should try some "Christian" fantasy. I'm a Christian, but I was reluctant. I tend to avoid Christian fantasy and, until recently, Christian music. If Christians are going to contribute to the arts (or science, or anything else), we need to make sure that our contributions are excellent. We can't sacrifice the quality of the work just to promote a message. Christian music used to be just awful, but now there is plenty of good stuff out there! (Although I admit that I still prefer Nine Inch Nails.)
But, the books were a loving gift, so I read them, and I was very pleasantly surprised! This is one of those time/place-traveling fantasies — a couple of Oxford grad students stumble upon a door into a time and place that is steeped in Celtic mythology (I learned a lot about that).
Th... Read More
The King Raven Trilogy — (2006-2009) Publisher: Bran ap Brychan finds his world ripped from its foundation as invaders topple his father’s kingdom and send the young prince fleeing into the forest. Readers will be spellbound with this entirely fresh take on this legendary figure — where the familiar and unexpected collide into something wholly original. From the ashes of ruin, a reluctant hero begins to emerge… yet his greatest enemy may be himself. Read the prologue here.
Available for download at Audible.com.
Hood by Stephen Lawhead (on audio)
Hood is the first novel in Stephen Lawhead's latest series, the King Raven Trilogy, which is a historical fantasy based on the Robin Hood legend. Lawhead places his story in Wales after the conquest of Britain by the Normans and during the reign of William the Red. (If that sounds a bit odd, Mr. Lawhead gives several convincing reasons for this at the end of the book — you might want to read that first.) The Normans are encroaching into Wales, confiscating land, and generally mistreating the Welsh. Bran, a prince of one of the Welsh districts whose father was just killed by the Normans, has been driven from his castle. His people think him dead and have no hope for regaining their former way of life. Not that Bran, an irresponsible womanizing rogue, would have been consid... Read More
Hood by Stephen Lawhead
I'll admit I was skeptical about the premise of Stephen Lawhead's King Raven trilogy, not because the setting and characters have been transposed from England to Wales, but because I couldn't quite see the point of such a change. However, Lawhead provides an interesting afterword in which he defends his decision; citing the difficulty that the Normans had in conquering territories in eleventh century Wales, as well as the passionate temperament of the average Welshman, their use of guerilla tactics, the density of their forests, and their early expertise in the use of longbows; all of which could serve as possible evidence that the earliest tales of Robin Hood originated outside of England. Over time, they were adapted and Anglicized into the quintessential English tales that we know today.
So, I was sold on the premise of this latest retelling... Read More
Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead (on audio)
Scarlet, the second book in Stephen Lawhead's King Raven Trilogy focuses on Will Scatlocke ("Scarlet"), a disillusioned forester who goes searching for, finds, and joins King Raven's infamous band of thieves. During one of their exploits, Will is caught, sentenced to hang, and thrown into prison where he is asked to tell his story to a priest in hopes that he'll let slip some information that will help sheriff Guy of Gysborne find and defeat the robbers. Thus, most of the story is told in past tense from Will Scarlet's perspective.
Even though the pace is slower than in Hood and we're not much concerned that Will might actually hang, Lawhead still spins us a fine yarn — the story is thoroughly entertaining. And, as usual, we are not just ent... Read More
Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead
The main concept behind Stephen Lawhead's King Raven trilogy is to take the most familiar elements of the famous English legend and transport them to Wales in the time of King William the Red (Lawhead provides justification for this in the afterword of Hood) giving them a new cultural flavor and historical context. The idea works surprisingly well, allowing for Lawhead to spin the old tales in an original light.
In Hood, the first installment of the trilogy, Prince Bran of Wales is forced to flee his estate after Norman invaders kill his father and seize control over his lands. Taking to the woods, Bran embraces his role as a leader to the families that have sought sanctuary in the wilds, becoming "Rhi Bran y Hud," or "the Raven King" to the people known as the Grellon or "the flock." Using scare ta... Read More
Tuck by Stephen Lawhead
This is the third and final part in The Raven King trilogy, begun with Stephen Lawhead's Hood and continued in Scarlet. After publication was delayed for a period of time due to illness, Tuck finally concludes the story in a satisfactorily, though perhaps slightly anti-climactically, way. The key concept behind this particular version of Robin Hood is that it proposes to be the "real" story behind the legends, based on events that originated in Wales and which went on to inspire the later bards and minstrels.
Lawhead chooses to transport the traditionally English tale to Wales due to: the country's dense forests, the Welsh skill with longbows, and the historical difficulties that the Normans had in conquering territories in eleventh century Wales due to the guerilla tactics th... Read More
The Dragon King Saga — Ages 9-12. (1983-1985) A dying knight’s urgent plea propels a disenchanted young acolyte into a deadly mission. On the shoulders of the unsuspecting Quentin rests the course of a kingdom; and ahead of him, a quest that will lead him out of the darkness of the old gods… and into undreamed-of spheres of conflict, magic, and light.
Empyrion — (1985-1986) Publisher: Traveller, debt-dodger, itinerant critic, and writer of history books nobody buys, Orion Treet is astounded to be invited to accompany a top-secret mission: to observe and document an extra-terrestrial colony on a newly discovered planet. But the paradise planet Treet and his companions are promised is a nightmare world locked in a death spiral of hate, fear, and death. The explorer’s arrival rekindles an impossibly ancient feud – and deadly conflict between two highly evolved civilizations. It is the struggle for the future of a world, a battle where there can be no spectators. Everyone must choose a side.
The Celtic Crusades — (1998-2001) Publisher: Amidst visions of the past, a 19th-century lawyer glimpses the harrowing journey of an ancestor, Murdo Ranulfson, who stays to guard his family’s interests while his father joins the Crusades. When the family’s possessions are confiscated, Murdo follows the Crusade to find his father.
Bright Empires — (2010-2013) Publisher: “He had a sensation of being told a secret he knew to be true, but which would be far, far easier — and much safer — to ignore; all the more so since he strongly suspected that acknowledging the truth meant his life would change utterly.” Kit Livingstone’s great-grandfather has re-appeared with an unbelievable story — the ley lines throughout Britain are not merely the stuff of legends but truly are pathways to other worlds. So few people know how to use them, though, that doing so is fraught with danger. But one explorer knew more than most. Because of his fear of being unable to find his way home, he developed an intricate code and tattooed his map onto his skin. But the map has since been lost and rival factions are in desperate competition to recover it. What none of them yet realize is that the skin map itself is not the prize at the end of this race… but merely the first goal of a vast and marvelous quest to regain Paradise. Enter the ultimate treasure hunt — with a map made of skin, a playing field of alternate realities, and a prize that is the greatest mystery of all.
Available for download at Audible.com.
Dream Thief — (1983) Publisher: Every morning Dr. Spencer Reston, dream-research scientist on space station Gotham, wakes up exhausted with the nagging feeling that something terrible is about to happen. Spence soon discovers that he has become a vital link in a cosmic coup masterminded by a mysterious creature known as the Dream Thief… and all civilization hangs in the balance. Here is science fiction on the grand scale of Dune and Asimov’s Foundation series. Dream Thief has it all: fast-paced adventure, alien settings, wonderful character development, cliff-hanging suspense, epic plot, and compelling spiritual underpinnings.
Byzantium — (1996) Publisher: Aidan is sent to accompany a small band of monks on a quest to the city of Byzantium to present the Holy Roman Emperor with the Book of Kells. On his journey Aidan will become a slave, an ambassador, a spy, a heathen, a Viking and a Saracen before being granted the gift of choosing his own destiny.
Patrick — (2003) Publisher: Set in an era of brutal conflict and turmoil, this epic adventure is the first novel to tell the full story of the slave who became a saint, of the man who rose to the challenge of his time and changed the course of history. In the summer of 405 AD, Irish raiders attack the western coast of Wales, carving a fiery swathe through the peaceful countryside. Among the survivors who are rounded up and taken back to Ireland is Succat: an impulsive sixteen-year-old son of a powerful Roman family. Succat is sold as a slave and put to work tending sheep. Repeated escape attempts lead to ever more brutal and savage beatings, until he comes to the attention of Cormac, a young novice Druid. The two strike up an unlikely friendship and, as Succat learns the ways of the Irish people, he is given a new name by the Druid: Patrick. With a new name begins Patrick’s new life: he is married, and the two decide to return to his home to claim his inheritance, only to find his father’s estate in ruins. So begins a calamitous journey that will lead him to Tours; see him join the Roman Legion as a soldier; suffer the the horrors of a plague-filled Rome; and thence back to Ireland, where he will embark on a mission for which his name will be remembered throughout history. In the spirit of Bernard Cornwell’s Arthurian cycle, Patrick is a gritty and unsentimental portrait of one of the Western world’s great icons, featuring an accurate and compelling rendering of the historical period — an era full of brutal conflict, adventure, turmoil, and visionary inspiration.