Taliesin: Book One of the Pendragon Cycle

Taliesin - Stephen R. Lawhead

I love how this book begins: an unnamed chronicler remembers the lost land of Atlantis and determines to tell of its people. He or she has little else to do as a prisoner.


The story proper begins with Charis, a bored Atlantean princess, who is dying to shake up the sameness of her life. She hopes the chance of attending a Great Council will do the trick. She also has access to the Lia Fail, a globe much like a palantir or Galadriel's Mirror in how it shows events. She learns not all is well with her beloved homeland. But beyond these vague hints, nothing very exciting happens until those hints become awful and awe-ful realty. The destruction of Atlantis was cool to read at a safe distance from it. But most of the time I was as bored as Charis and never warmed up to her. This book could have been cut in half and not suffered from it.


The other half of book concerns the story of Elphin, son of a king in Gwynedd in Roman Wales. Particularly bad luck dogs Elphin no matter what he does. His father, Gwynddno, wishes to change that and prove to their people the young man is a worthy heir to lead them. To this end, Gwynddno announces Elphin will be the one to retrieve the salmon which each year abundantly blesses the clan. There is just one thing that goes wrong with this idea: a late snow delays the salmon and there are none found. But this is not the catastrophe it appears, as Elphin finds something else far more valuable: an infant boy. The clan's druid, Hafgen, names him Taliesin and proclaims Elphin's long run of ill luck is over. And, indeed it is. All Britain will one day be glad for this boy's life.


The chapters alternate between the story of Charis and Elphin and eventually merge, as they rise to meet the challenges which confront them. I liked the parts abut Elphin and those earn the stars I give to the review.