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Taliesin

by Stephen R. Lawhead
Series: Pendragon Cycle #1
496 pages, Fantasy
Reviewed by Jenny

An unorthodox but enjoyable read of Atlantis, Britain, and the beginning of the Arthurian saga.

Plot

Charis, daughter and princess of the idyllic island of Atlantis, has her beautiful world broken slowly and methodically as first her family and then her country are swallowed up in the past. One of the few survivors of the island’s demise, the princess sets off across the ocean to seek another home.

Meanwhile, in the wild lands of Britain, a luckless young man discovers a baby, still alive, caught in nets in a winter river. The boy Taliesin grows, wise and gifted in song, to meet and fall in love with the beautiful foreign princess. Together they discover the redeeming love of Christ and, as man and wife, create one of the most enduring legends of Britain: Merlin.

Morality

The morality is fairly good. It is not until late into the book that Christianity arrives, but the pagans seem to have a good handle on what is good and what is evil.

Spiritual Content

There are venerations of the Greek gods throughout the beginning of the story; once a bull is slain as a sacrifice to the pagan gods. There are venerations, dreams, and other mentions of Celtic gods; Taliesin, before his conversion, is considered a druid-bard, and there are gatherings of bards within the story. Also, later on, monks appear on the scene and spread the Gospel throughout the settlements of Celtic and Atlantean peoples.

There is an appearance of Christ to Taliesin at once point, which is handled delicately and with biblical references, but since the story is post-ascension in nature, the reader ought to be aware of this.

Violence

There is plenty of violence. Charis was a dancer in the bull-ring and gets wounded; an animal sacrifice is made and the organ used for hepatoscopy turns out to be filled with worms. A man is shot with an arrow; a woman begins to bleed dangerously while she is with child. These are only a few instances, and all violence is border-line: it could or could not be disturbing, and should be read with care.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Wine is consumed, in some cases to excess, though not by the chief characters.

Sexual Content

A man and a woman to whom he is not married are caught in bed together. A man and a woman marry and have a child. There is an attempted seduction, which ultimately fails, but makes for an uncomfortable passage to read. Thankfully, most of this is not described in detail, but caution should be employed.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

None.

Conclusion

This is a very heart-felt, promising beginning to Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle. The characters spring alive off the pages, and while the set-up to the Arthurian saga is a little unorthodox, Lawhead certainly knows what he is doing. The contrast between enlightened, advanced Atlantis and post-Roman Britain is startling, the intrigues within the royal family and outsiders engrossing. While this book deals with many pagan elements and some questionable stances on Christian theology, it is an enjoyable read for its intended age group.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 3.5
Written for Age: 13+

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