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Awen: A Novel of Early Medieval Wales Hardcover – January 1, 1997

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Awen is a tightly woven novel of suspense, intrigue, love, and warfare set on the border between the Welsh kingdom of Powys and the English kingdom of Mercia at the end of the eighth century. The result of years of devoted research, the novel centers on an ancient and enigmatic poetry cycle, Canu Heledd. Battles and kidnappings, blood feuds and political murders entangle the poet Cynfarch, as Brochfael of Powys struggles to protect his people's culture and sovereignty from the growing might of Offa of Mercia. From the harsh mountains valleys of North Wales to the quiet streams of western England, from the vanished court of Mathrafal to Charlemagne's throne, a bloody apocalypse looms as Cynfarch pursues both Meirwen's heart and his own quest for reinstatement as bard to the king of Powys.

About the Author

SUSAN MAYSE is a prize-winning Canadian novelist, biographer, and playwright. She lives on Vancouver Island.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Eastern Washington University; First Edition edition (January 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0910055378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0910055376
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,502,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Awen is a combined historical and fictional account of the constant struggle of power between Powys, Wales and Mercia, England in late sixth century. I recommend reading other Welsh fiction first such as Sharon Kay Penman's series starting with "Here Be Dragons". Then you will be familiar with welsh names, places, georaphy, and history; otherwise you can become confused as many Welsh names are unfamiliar. I know that by reading her series first, this book went smoother as I could concentrate on the plot. There are power struggles between kingdoms as well as between ruling families, constant deception and intrigue-- never a dull moment as something you thought you were following-- suddenly changes. Friend or foe; who to trust? It is amazing how much war was fought based on misunderstanding and the propaganda of those trying to get to the top.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is no ordinary novel. As such it requires some patience and commitment by the reader. However, the rewards for this small effort are vast and manifold.
The plot evolves around Brys, a soldier/poet in eighth century Wales. In his efforts to serve his country he fights battles, defends his friends, survives assassination attempts and deals in the political intrigues of the day. Fictional and non-fictional characters are woven into the plot along with historical events.
Anyone interested in the real Dark Ages or Welsh history will be fascinated by Awen and anyone just looking for an exciting read will end up interested in the Dark Ages and Welsh history!
Do yourself a favour and grab a copy today!
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Format: Hardcover
Awen is a richly textured historical novel that would appeal to fans of Sigrid Undset, Dorothy Dunnett, and Sharon Kay Penman.
The reader steps into early eighth century Britain and meets Brys, a disgraced court poet, who must somehow knit together an uneasy alliance of enemies. His mission is to unite warring Welsh kingdoms in time to stave off the encroachment of the English kingdom of Mercea. Palace intrigues, bloody raids, romance, and misunderstandings are the name of the day.
This is a monumental literary novel, and once you start it, you will immerse yourself in a world which is both unique and universal. Enjoy!
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fantastic book that deserves to be much better known. The story of conflict between Powys and Mercia in the eighth century, it is primarily from the point of view of Cynfarch "Brys", who becomes pencerdd, chief poet, in Powys.
Sentence-level writing is gorgeous and unobtrusive at the same time.
The plot has an interlaced, knotwork-like quality. At times it's completely gripping -- Cynfarch's graduation in song, for example. Here and there it falters a little, as when the characters visit Aachen, but it never lost my interest. Because of the political complexities and the huge number of characters, some with similar names, the book requires a lot of attention and the name lists are vital. Even having studied this period, I had some trouble keeping up, but the work is worth it.
Characters are deep in a subtle way -- there's not a lot of introspection and emoting "on-stage"; the reader has to watch for it. Mayse has created a host of attractive and vivid individuals; Brys, Heilyn, Meirwen, Gwydron, and the sadistic Cenwulf stand out.
This is a subtle book, again, and sometimes I wanted a bit more visceral impact. The battles and actions scenes are good, but could stand a touch more grit. The themes of slavery in Mercia and Cenwulf's sadism aren't completely developed -- which means, really, that the author chose to be less melodramatic with the subject than I would have been. Overall, Mayse's choice of tone works well, reminding me of the medieval Welsh poetry with which she is clearly conversant.
Historical accuracy is one of the book's strengths. A lot is, inevitably, speculation, but it worked for me. I'm not sure people were quite as relaxed about romantic relationships as she portrays, but who knows?
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