This is a riveting and thoroughly enjoyable tale. I would HIGHLY recommend this to anyone regardless of which genres they normally gravitate towards. Though definitely not as far reaching or comprehensive, Lawhead's writing and the world he creates was evocative of the styles of Tolkien and Martin. The narrative style is chosen with destinct deliberation and it works splendidly for the novel. This novel is a classic tale of good vs. evil, but told in a manner where the reader finds himself relating to the principle character and his struggles. It involves a touch of fantasy, but this should not discourage those who often shy away from such a genre as the writing is superb and the character development alone are worth the read.
I wish I had more time, and I do wish to come back and edit this review, but it will suffice to say that this was an incredibly enjoyable reading experience. It starts slow, especially if you're comparing to the King Raven trilogy or Byzantium (my previous Lawhead experience), but goodness it picks up quick and the sprint in Albion is worth the plod through the drudgery of a gray, sad, and broken world. Our world indeed. That is, I think, the greatest value I've come away from this book with: the beauty of what we can just barely imagine, the eternal, as the impetus for the temporal. A reminder that there is greater purpose than the comforting of the wanton soul.
This book is good, though what I liked best about it was that it introduced me to Stephen Lawhead. I've become a fan of many of his books, particularly his Robin Hood Trilogy and his outstanding book Patrick, which is about the life of St. Patrick. I did not like this book as much as those other books, largely because the pace on this book drags from time to time. While I would encourage readers to start with the Robin Hood Trilogy or Patrick first, this is still enjoyable.
I particularly enjoyed the first 1/4 or 1/3 of this book, where the author set the stage for later events. The main characters for that section of the book (Simon and Lewis) were very well drawn; their life(style) was totally believeable and current; and the bits and pieces of Celtic mythology that were woven in were just familiar enough to be understandable and yet alien enough to keep you wondering.
After Lewis entered the Other World, the tone changed, and became much more serious and showed more of an emphasis on his personal metamorphosis from scholar to warrior, and his internalizing of the Celtic ethos of honor and loyalty. There were some very intense scenes in the latter half of the book, but no gratituous violence or cruelty. The author continued to show a deft hand with his presentation and integration of Celtic mythology. I'm only minimally familiar with the Celtic legendarium, so I was left trying to mentally track down names and allusions that I was sure I had heard before and felt were an important sub-plot to the story.
The one thing that I felt was somewhat jarring about this book was that Lewis, who was working on a post-graduate degree in Celtic history, with the intention of becoming a teacher, seemed so out of his depth when confronted with the objects of his studies 'in real life'. Of course, being suddenly transported to the Otherworld would do that to anyone, but even after he had settled down and accepted what had happened, he seemed no more familiar with what-was-what than Simon did, and Simon had no background in the subject. This by no means spoiled the story - it just sort of swam in the back of my mind during certain episodes and gave a slightly out-of-place feeling to the character at that point.
Highly recommended! I will be looking into the 2nd and 3rd books of this series.
Note on Kindle formatting: Excellent. I noticed no issues at all.
The Song of Albion trilogy, starting with The Paradise War, continuing in The Silver Hand, and concluding with The Endless Knot has long been one of my favorite book series. Although I already have the paperbacks, these books are some of the few for which I will pay again to get the electronic version, since I enjoy reading them over periodically.
Based primarily in an alternate reality, on and around the island of Albion, and steeped in the mythology of the ancient Celts and the folklore of the British Isles, this is an epic tale of courage, destiny and ultimate triumph in the face of tremendous adversity. The plots are deep, intricate, and resound with a sense of authenticity which draws you completely into this fantastic world. I especially found the concept of kingship as depicted in these novels to be fascinating and thought provoking - the ideas that the king exists ultimately to serve his subjects and that the king is appointed and anointed to the position rather than inheriting it by bloodline.
One is taken on a roller coaster ride with our protagonist as we journey with Llew from Oxford in England to a parallel universe with an alternate Briton filled with warriors and heroes and villains, vying for the high-throne of Albion. Just writing about it makes me want to start reading them again tonight. Enjoy the ride with Llew from a nondescript Oxford student to a warrior to almost a king to a maimed outcast, to a... well, you'll just have to read all three to see where it goes.
A thoroughly engrossing tale, rich in the detail of another world, with an unusual conclusion that I don't think I really fully got until the 2nd or 3rd time through. These books are on my most highly recommended list of fiction, alongside the Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Asimov's robot crime novels, and Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth.