48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lawhead's Arthur trilogy has six books?!
Lawhead wrote his famous trilogy of Christian fantasy novels on the Arthurian legend:
1 _Taliesin_, 2 _Merlin_ 3 _Arthur_.
So by popular demand, two volumes were added in the middle of the...
Published on May 24, 2003 by Bill King
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent writing but ultimately flawed ...
Stephen Lawhead's storytelling is certainly ambitious. In Taliesin, he has proposed nothing less than a fanciful, fluid blending of three mythologies into a single epic history - the twilight and final cataclysmic collapse of the fantastic empire of Atlantis; the inspiring life of Taliesin, Celtic bard and shaman, thought to be father to Merlin, during the withdrawal of...
Published on June 4, 2006 by Paul Weiss
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lawhead's Arthur trilogy has six books?!,
This review is from: Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)Lawhead wrote his famous trilogy of Christian fantasy novels on the Arthurian legend:
1 _Taliesin_, 2 _Merlin_ 3 _Arthur_.
So by popular demand, two volumes were added in the middle of the saga at the time while Arthur reigned in full glory as Britain's high King.
These welcome additional volumes were 4 _Pendragon_ (story of the invading Black Boar- i.e. the Vandal horde) and 5 _Grail_ (story of the revolt against Arthur by one of his own knights in league with hard-hearted witch Morgian).
So here's the revised order to read them to keep the story straight: 1Taliesin, 2Merlin, 3Arthur partI [Pelleas], 3Arthur partII [Bedwys], 4Pendragon, 5Grail, 3Arthur partIII [Aneirin].
Now the problem was a rather sad situation: at the final end, Arthur is missing, presumed dead, and as always in these retelling of the Arthur legend, there is the vague hint that one day when Britain's need is great, we will see the return of the King.
Hence: one last volume, set in our own perilous future: volume 6 _Avalon_.
Enjoy a wonderful journey!
73 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious telling of pre-Arthurian legend...,
This review is from: Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)Stephen Lawhead added his own twists to Arthurian legend, in a Christianity-friendly, mythic-realism retelling of the years leading up to the tales of Arthur and his knights that we know and love. "Taliesin" takes place before the time of Merlin, starring Merlin's parents.
Charis is a pampered young princess of Atlantis, a seemingly idyllic civilization reminiscent of Greece. The only jarring note is a blind, seemingly mad prophet who predicts doom will soon fall upon Atlantis, and that the island will sink into the sea. Charis initially doesn't believe him, but upon the sudden, emotionally-scarring death of her mother, she leaves her family and becomes a bull dancer in honor of one of the Atlantean gods. (The scenes where she dances around and over the bull are breathtaking)
But a serious injury prompts her and her well-trained team to retire, and she returns home to find her father Avallach seriously ill, and married to his sly-eyed nurse. Charis now has a younger sister, Morgian, a creepy child heavily influenced by the family advisor, whose initially pleasant personality is sinking deeper into melancholy and darkness. And Charis begins to believe: Atlantis is going to sink.
Meanwhile, as Charis struggles on Atlantis, a famously unlucky young man in Britain finds a baby caught in a fishnet; he hails this as the beginning of his good luck. When he finds a disgraced wet-nurse for baby Taliesin, he falls in love and marries her; his luck continues. Taliesin grows to manhood, intelligent and wise -- and gifted with strange and wonderful powers.
Charis barely escapes Atlantis with her family, arriving on the strange shores of Britain. Though Taliesin's people are hospitable enough, Avallach, Charis and the other "children of Atlantis" are sadly out of place; refined and lovely, in a rough and cold land. Charis is embittered by her many struggles, believing neither in Taliesin's God or in the Atlantean gods. But after he meets her floating in a lake (thus gaining her the title of "Lady of the Lake") Taliesin falls in love with and eventually converts and marries Charis. Though their time together is far too short, they produce one of the greatest men in history...
I'm not entirely certain why it's okay to paganize Arthurian characters, as in "Mists of Avalon," but it's NOT okay to Christanize them. Why is it that when Christians are shown as better than pagans, it's "sugary" and untrue; but when non-Christians are shown as better than Christians, it's a bold statement and worthy of endless applause?
As for historical complaints: it's fiction, for crying out loud! No one knows the "real" story of Arthur, lost in the mists of time. We don't even know if he was a single person, or a collection of mythical and real kings mishmashed together. It's up to authors to interpret and reinterpret. Lawhead never pretends for a moment to be telling anything but a good story. We don't care if there are potatoes and fir trees. It doesn't wreck the book.
Writing style is good and descriptive, giving us accurate ideas of the light-filled, rotten-at-the-core Atlantis and the darker, simpler Britain. There is, aside from blood and death and extreme emotional intensity, nothing objectionable about this book in profanity and sex (none of either).
Charis is probably one of the best female fictional characters I've ever seen. She's strong and insightful, is willing to take matters into her own hands, and doesn't bow to anyone. It's through her resolve and courage that any people escaped from Atlantis; at the same time, she's afraid and embittered. It takes the sweet, relatively unspoiled Taliesin to break through her shell; Taliesin himself is taken from an old legend, and here reformatted into Merlin's father. Somehow we get more of Charis than Taliesin; though the scene where he brings Merlin back to life is simply breathtaking.
This is the start of a beautiful saga, written wonderfully and with great characters. Be sure to read it. Now, on to "Merlin."
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Pendragon Saga!!,
This review is from: Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)The tales are King Arthur are magnificently told and fashioned into 5 books of the Pendragon Cycle: 'Taliesin', 'Merlin', 'Arthur', 'Pendragon', and 'Grail'.
Lawhead does an excellent job in this first book of this series of books. The first one tells the story of Charis, an Atlantean princess who escapes the devastation of her homeland, the once peaceful kingdom Atlantis. In her refuge, she journeys to the ancient lands of Wales and Britain. There she meets her future love, Taliesin, mystical seer and druid prince. It's between these two lovers that two worlds join together in a land full of chaos and the fate of it's future hangs in the balance. From this union the birth and miracles of Merlin, the fabled magician are manifested. This brings alive the legend of Pendragon, Uther and King Arthur.
Lawhead, often called the 'Celtic Tolkien' brings to life in every detail of it's ancient history and the characters. You experience it with vibrant realness, resonance and passion. This would be an excellent addition to any Arthurian literature and anyone studying ancient history and mythology. Each book is a remarkable tapestry of eloquent and descriptive stories of the Arthurian epic, mysticism and the age of chivalry. The old tale is given a new light that entertains and dazzles. If you like ancient Celtic history and fantasy this is an absolute recommendation!
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books i've ever read!,
This review is from: Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1) (Paperback)This book is one of the best i've ever read and for good reason. The plot is great and the characters are really written well. I had to look up once or twice to make sure i was still in this world and not there with Charis and Taliesin. Stephen Lawhead wrote it all so well you start to think you are part of it. I can't wait to finish the rest of the Pendragon cycle. All in all this book is great, the battle between good and evil, light and dark, friendship and enemity is strong and weaves the words like a web that you get caught in and never free yourself from. A great novel
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lawhead's Mythos is breathtaking,
By A Customer
This review is from: Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)I wasn't going to write a review for this book until I read all of the others. Of course this is a marvelous story and a great work of literature, which I have come to expect from Stephen Lawhead. But I decided to write this to point out to any who read reviews before buying books that almost without exception, the people who wrote the negative reviews following prove themselves fools. One reviewer actually read the whole book and completely missed the significance of Taliesin's death (Taliesin was already dead before the arrow struck him. I won't be any more specific for the benefit of those who haven't read) and another insists that potatoes were invented in America in the 1800's! So please READ THIS BOOK! You won't be sorry unless you are really, really dumb (as folks sometimes are!).
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring,
This review is from: Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)This was my first exposure to Stephen Lawhead's writing, and I am impressed. The Atlantis he creates is so real and believable, I actually had to check the encyclopedia to make sure it was just a legend! The characters, even minor ones, are well developed and very believable. The romance is very well done between all the couples in the story. Lawhead's vivid imagery and obvious love for all things Celt, makes the Celtic culture come alive in this book.
The greatest strength I see in Lawhead's writing is his ability to create believable characters that the reader feels close to. By the end of the story, Charis was like a sister to me. I read this book as entertainment to escape from the monotony of stay-at-home motherhood, but it ended up being so much more. This story was about the meeting of two cultures, the inner conflict of religious belief, and most of all, the story of one woman's faith journey. I would highly recommend this book.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent writing but ultimately flawed ...,
This review is from: Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)Stephen Lawhead's storytelling is certainly ambitious. In Taliesin, he has proposed nothing less than a fanciful, fluid blending of three mythologies into a single epic history - the twilight and final cataclysmic collapse of the fantastic empire of Atlantis; the inspiring life of Taliesin, Celtic bard and shaman, thought to be father to Merlin, during the withdrawal of the Roman Empire in Britain and the onset of the Dark Ages; and the endlessly repeated (and despite today's protestations to the contrary, never proven) legend of Joseph of Arimathea's carrying the Holy Grail to Britain accompanied by the dizzying, wildfire spread of Christianity throughout Europe in the centuries following Christ's crucifixion in the Holy Land!
No doubt about it ... Lawhead's prose is certainly up to the task! His evocative, mellifluous descriptions of exotic settings include sight, motion and sounds in abundance. The pages seem to exude even smells with an uncanny sense of realism:
"And the smells - a pungent perfume concocted of the thick, greasy scent of food cooking in heavy olive oil; the rich, earthy odor of the cattle stalls beneath the stadium; the light, airy tang of sun-warmed salt air off the sea."
The almost effortless creation of a seamless chronology is achieved by the telling of a series of linked shorter tales - the Atlantean princess Charis' years spent dancing in the bull ring; the inspiring transformation of the Celtic son, Elphin, from luckless bumbler to respected king and feared warlord; and, Taliesin's relentless love for Charis in the face of overwhelming opposition from her father, Avallach. Reminiscent of the bible tale of Moses in the bulrushes, Elphin's finding of the infant Taliesin caught up in the family's salmon nets and the chance discovery of his wife, Rhonwyn, is probably the warmest, most moving piece of purely romantic writing that I've ever been privileged to read!
In spite of all of these obvious strengths, ultimately the novel failed for me. While it seems eminently reasonable to portray Arthur's forebears as wrestling with their conversion from Celtic pagan beliefs to Christianity (why else would they have ultimately been so obsessed with the recovery of the Holy Grail?), I believe that Lawhead fell into the trap of presenting Christianity as not only Taliesin's choice but also his choice, the right choice and the only choice. My opinion only, of course, but I believe the novel would have been much more effective stopping at the simple portrayal of Christianity as the historical choice that Taliesin made for himself and his family! Somewhere in the final third of the novel, zealotry slipped over the top and I began to feel like Lawhead was trying to preach to me through Taliesin and, frankly, I just didn't care for it!
The writing was so darn good, I can't bring myself to give the novel a failing grade outright but I'm left with a disturbing feeling of ambivalence as to whether I'll read "Merlin", the next novel in the entire five novel series "The Pendragon Cycle". We'll see ...
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't listen to the naysayers!,
By A Customer
This review is from: Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)Don't listen to the readers who complained about this book not being up to the normal standard within the fantasy genre. Taliesin is a very different mode of fantasy fiction. In fact, Lawhead has spearheaded an unexplored genre: the historical fantasy novel. Within this novel, and the ones that follow in this series, Lawhead has created a world based on factual research. Keep in mind that while Lawhead has based his world on facts, he has also taken the liberties granted to him within the fantasy genre. What has resulted is an interesting blend of factual ballast and fictional narration. The books in this series are great reads because Lawhead brings the myths of western civilization to life. Those readers who have read Beowulf will find interesting similarities.
P.S: This book takes longer to read than a Robert Jordan novel because Taliesin is written at a higher reading level. A combination of complex sentences, facts, and long digressions contribute to the three weeks that some readers have devoted to this book. If you like it and your reading chops are up, you will finish it in a day or two.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sincere, idealistic, dramatic... exceptional for the young,
This review is from: Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)These books sold very, very well for the author in what can only be described as an impossibly crowded genre. It seems every fantasy novelist attempts, at some point, a re-telling and definitive edition of the Arthurian myth. It is the only subject more trampled and copied than Tolkien. It is also the genre that lapses in to the most astonishing absurdities. Lawhead, with these three books (Taliesin, Merlin, and Arthur) has contributed something very relevant and very new to the genre. It gives the myth a burst of idealism and Christianity not seen since Tennyson with the Celtic traditions not seen since the Mabinogion. Sadly, with the publication of the latter three--and far lesser novels (Pendragon, Grail, and Avallon) the series is much damaged and diminished. We believe that Lawhead would've been far better served to let the trilogy stand on its own where it's not so intimidating and probably would've enjoyed subsequent reprinting. As it stands, our rating for this book is slightly tarnished by these later publications and endanger the proud work of a very, very good author.
WHO SHOULD READ:
Readers who enjoyed Tolkien a great deal and who read Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan, and others searching for that same idealism will come closest to finding it here with Lawhead. Readers who enjoyed Marion Zimmerman Bradley's feminized version of the legend in The Mists of Avalon will find this work operating as a kind of opposite: Bradley employing the traditional pagan religious elements and feminism while re-working the French side of the myth while Lawhead invoking Christian theology and masculinity in t the Celtic side of the myth. They are very interesting to read together. These books are excellent choices for teenagers for whom idealism is second nature. Oddly, readers deeply impressed with the idealism of the people living in "The Land" in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever will find themselves deeply compelled by this work.
WHO SHOULD AVOID:
Scholars of Arthuriana, those more versed in Malory, Monmouth, Eschenbach, de Troyes, and even Tennyson, will probably be a bit disappointed. They are going to be much less impressed with what they might regard as overly-dramatic prose and much more sensitive to the liberties--particularly the Christian liberties--that Lawhead takes with the story. Certainly those readers who are inclined to much more cynical writing styles of the late 20th and 21st century--people who enjoy the subtle undercurrents and "un-heroism" of more modern irreverent works--will probably become bored and irritable with the constant nobility (just as they would become bored with Tennyson's Idylls of the King). People looking to investigate the actual history and evolution of the mythology would not be well-served by reading this book but should look to the actual source material of Malory and perhaps some of the earlier Celtic works such as Monmouth and The Alliterative Morte d'Arthure.
READ THE ENTIRE REVIEW AT INCHOATUS.COM
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, Descriptive, and Enjoyable even for the 5th read!,
This review is from: Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1) (Paperback)In preparation for Lawhead's upcoming release of Avalon I am re-reading the Pendragon Cycle beginning with Taliesin. The book is wonderful. Lawhead evokes grand and fantastic images in my head as I read his books and Taliesin is one of the best. I sincerely love the characters; they are very wonderful people. This is one of those rare stories that also lift my heart to live life more fully. Even though I have read this book many times, I still laughed and cried aloud at new and familiar points in the story. I also discovered a key plot point that I had somehow missed in the first 4 reads. What a great book! May Taliesin live forever!
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Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1) by Stephen R. Lawhead (Mass Market Paperback - August 26, 2008)