Review: Taliesin

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So, I admit, I’m a little behind on this one.

Taliesin, by Stephen R. Lawhead, was released in 1990, but I only recently picked it up on a visit to Barnes & Noble when I was looking for something to take with me on my trip to California.  I wanted something different to read on the flight despite the fact that I’ve got a few books piled up here at the house.

I’ve got another Lawhead book, “Hood”, that I haven’t cracked open yet but it’s in a larger format and I wanted something easily carried on the plane, so, this one caught my eye.

I’ve always been a sucker for King Arthur, and Lawhead’s take is pretty cool.

This is just the beginning of his version of the saga, and it focuses on two Kingdoms: one of Atlantis, one of the Cymry.  On Atlantis, Charis wants more.  She’s bored.  She wants to travel, to see and do things that her brothers, Princes of the Realm, get to do all the time.  It’s not easy being the only daughter of an Atlantean King.

Across the pond, Elphin is the unluckiest man in his father’s Kingdom.  So unlucky, in fact, that most of their people believe he’s cursed and as such, unfit to rule when his Father steps down.  In a last ditch effort to secure his son’s future, the King sends Elphin to retrieve the salmon haul for the year to prove that he is not cursed to bad luck.  No salmon come due to snow, but Elphin does find a baby and brings him back to his family, naming him Taliesin and calling him ‘son’.

From there we see two stories unfolding; we follow Charis on her journey from child to woman as she has to deal with war, death and the destruction of her homeland when Atlantis sinks into the ocean, and we see Elphin transformed from unluckiest man in his homeland to the King who leads his people in their darkest time.

I really liked this book.  Lawhead paints an epic picture of two worlds slowly colliding with each other.  The main characters take very different paths to get through it all.  They’re flawed and damaged by the time Charis and Taliesin meet.

You can see elements of the Arthurian Legend we all know, woven throughout this first tale.  Almost like what we know is the watered down version of the story.  Lawhead is really good at telling the tale in such a way that it feels like this is what really happened, and the stories we know are the ones that have been modified throughout the centuries as they’re passed from generation to generation.

In the end, I think that’s what makes this a thoroughly enjoyable book.  It reminds me a little of the Jack Whyte books (The Skystone: Book One of The Camulod Chronicles), except that Taliesin has quite a bit of magic in it, where The Skystone did not (that I can recall).

If you haven’t read it yet, pick it up and give it a shot.

~P