Reviewed by Lori Fox
"A real, plausible, and at times gripping, tale."
Bran ap Brychan is the sole heir to the throne of Elfael, a commot in Wales. When his father is viciously murdered along with his warband by the invading Normans, he is understandably angry. Securing his people with the local clerics, he takes off for Lundein, accompanied by his father’s Champion, and a local Monk. They arrive in Lundein demanding justice for the heinous act, only to find the King of England gone to Normandy on business of his own, and the Cardinal acting in his stead to be less than helpful. As they return to Elfael they are ambushed by a group of Normans, and Bran is captured.
Negotiating with the new lord of Elfael, Bran secures one day to collect a ransom for his own life. Unable to collect the needed ransom, he runs. Nearly caught, with nothing but a cliff left for escape, Bran prepares to be captured--but fate intervenes. Bran falls to the pool below, and thinking him to be dead, the soldiers break off the chase. Nursed back to health by a strange old woman, Bran learns to be a king, and what’s more, a man. His people made slaves or forced into hiding in their own lands, Bran finds something worth fighting for. But how to gain the land back, and force the Normans out?
What seems at first to be a strange setting for Robin Hood quickly becomes believable amidst the intrigues of the day. In the back of the book, Lawhead provides detailed information on why he chose Wales to set his story. He even provides verbal pronouncements of some of the more difficult names on his website. If you don’t see the word you’d like to hear pronounced, there’s a spot to enter the word for future consideration.
Stephen R. Lawhead reaches back to his roots in the Pendragon Cycle to turn a well known, and well loved, story into a real, plausible, and at times, gripping tale. But if you’re seeking a magic filled fantasy, this book may not be for you. Magic is in short supply in many of Lawhead’s books, and more so in this one.
All of the characters are well developed with realistic motivations, and Bran is no exception. For Bran, this is not about being king and having control, this is a fight to free his people from the oppression of foreign invading peoples who steal their land, belongings, and even their lives.
Lori Fox is a freelance writer who is working on her first novel as well as writing reviews for TitleTrakk.com. In addition to writing, she enjoys reading, making jewelry, and taking as many trips to Walt Disney World as possible with her wonderful husband Kyle. Visit her online at her website.