Taliesin by Stephen R. Lawhead (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1)

A princess of Atlantis flees to ancient England where her paths cross with a mage-in-training whose parentage is unknown.

I was drawn to Taliesin (which I desperately want to be an anagram of Atlantis, but it’s not) because it’s a retelling of the King Arthur legend with historically accurate place names and details, and with the Christianity an important, unoppressive element. Several major characters are converted to Christianity in episodes that are emotionally and spiritually powerful, but Lawhead doesn’t make that the happy ending. He understands that the Christian life is filled with drama and conflict, both inner and outer, and Lawhead doesn’t let his Christian characters have all the answers.

Where I disengaged from the book was with the character of Charis. Charis was proud, fierce, headstrong–all character qualities I normally love–but I think Lawhead romanticized her too much and made her inaccessible. All the men worshipped her but he didn’t give her any qualities that let me identify with her as a woman.

I really liked the character of Lile, the pagan wife to the king of Atlantis. She was a very nuanced character, set up to be the “evil stepmother” but proving to be both friend and enemy to Charis. I really appreciated that aspect. I’m hoping that her daughter Morgiane doesn’t end up being one-dimensional.

As for Taliesin, the bard/mage discovered in a river as a baby, I’m not sure how I feel about him. He’s certainly heroic, but like with Charis I experienced some distance from him. I think he was put on a pedestal by Lawhead and I couldn’t totally connect with his struggles.

I will definitely give the next book a try because these criticisms could just be first book issues. I’ve never read a memorable King Arthur telling so I’m keen to see this one through.

One thought on “Taliesin by Stephen R. Lawhead (The Pendragon Cycle, Book 1)”

  1. I read the whole Pendragon Cycle in college, and Merlin (the second book) was a bit of a challenge. I may have to go back and re-read them.

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