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review 2018-04-17 23:40
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.

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review 2018-03-18 20:48
That Hideous Strength
That Hideous Strength - C.S. Lewis

This is the third volume of the Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis, which fulfilled his end of a deal he made with J. R. R. Tolkien. Finding a dearth of books they actually wanted to read, they set out to write them. Lewis would write about space travel and Tolkien about time travel. Alas. the latter only began the sadly short The Lost Road and the much longer but also unfinished The Notion Club Papers (both found within The History of Middle-earth series). I wish he had finished both, not to mention The Fall of Arthur. I hope I don't die with books unwritten. But I digress...

 

Lewis began his Trilogy with Out of the Silent Planet, continued it with Perelandra (loved this! especially Ransom's struggle, so like Frodo's, to fulfill his vocation), and concludes it here. In the previous volumes, we spent time on Mars and Venus. In this tale, we are back on the silent planet, our own Earth.

 

Newly married Jane Studdock is troubled by nightmares she later learns are actual event and is a gift (or curse) powers around her wish to use for good or ill. Her husband, Mark, is a professor at Bracton, an English college more than 700 hundreds old. He desperately wishes to be considered part of the Progressive Element at the school.

 

Bragdon Wood on the school's property is even older than it, with ties to the time of Merlin. N.I.C.E. (The National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments) wishes to buy the Wood for their headquarters. Even though I have only read this classic for the first time this year, I already knew N.I.C.E. was not nice, but the college is in financial distress and the money offered to purchase the wood proves irresistable.

 

Mark attends the meeting that decides upon the sale, while Jane lunches with Mr. and Mrs. Drimble. Mr. Drimble was Jane's tutor in school and an expert on all things Arthurian. Jane's strange dream intrigues the man. That night, Mark attends a dinner where he hears of N.I.C.E.'s vision of the future, which is truly frightening to anyone with sense (and unfortunately still alive and well today in the real world). But Mark readily agrees to help the organization implement their plans and so begins his slow slide into hell.

 

Upon recommendation from Mr. Drimble, Jane goes to see Miss Ironwood. She hopes to get a cure for her nightmares, but the woman tells her she cannot cure her because she is not sick. She has not had nightmares; she has received visions of reality which Miss Ironwood hopes Jane will use to help save the whole of mankind, which is in great peril. If Jane tells anyone else of her dreams, she could place herself in terrible danger. But if she places her visions in the service of Miss Ironwood and her unnamed cohorts, she would be a tremendous boon to the entire human race. Jane says she wants nothing to do with anything like that. She just wants her nightmares to end.

 

But the dreams do not stop. Jane and Mark are soon caught up in a great battle between light and darkness and on opposite sides. Who wlll prevail?

 

I liked this book overall, It is chilling how accurate it still is, more than 70 years later, about how the so-called Progressive Element operates with the manipulation of the media to misinform the public, their goals to eliminate undesirable elements of the human race, and their work toward making man immortal. It gets rather too strange shortly after the appearance of Merlin (though not because of his appearance). Before then, the strength of Lewis' writing shows through. Let us heed the warnings he gives.

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review 2017-07-24 22:15
Over Sea, Under Stone: The Dark is Rising Sequence, Book One
Over Sea, Under Stone - Susan Cooper

This first volume of The Dark is Rising sequence begins with the five-member Drew family's arrival for a month-long vacation with an old professor friend of the father's, affectionately called Great-Uncle Merry. "How old he was, nobody knew. 'Old as the hills,' Father said, and they felt, deep down, that this was probably right. There was something about Great-Uncle Merry that was like the hills, or the sea, or the sky; something ancient, but without age or end."

 

It rains heavily the first full day in Cornwall, or Logres as Merry calls it by its Arthurian name. Bored out of their minds, the three children go treasure-hunting in the house Merry rented for them. Behind a wardrobe, they find a secret passage to an abandoned room. The youngest child, Barney, a keen admirer of the Arthurian legends, finds an ancient scroll that refers to the king and one of his knights, Mark.This happens to be just what some other people, and Merry himself, have sought long for. Indeed, burglars break in during the night to seek it, but they do not find it.

 

The police put it down to just hooligans, but the children believe otherwise. They tell Merry about their discovery. The man confirms its great value as part of Arthurian history and that Arthur did actually exist. He tells the children the truth about the man behind the legend and of the constant struggle between the forces of good and evil, of which Arthur was one of the strongest warriors during a dark and perilous time. He then informs them of the grave danger they are now in because of what they found with those of wicked intentions to gain it themselves so close behind.

 

The chase is on. Can Merry and the Drew children outrun their enemies and save this precious artifact?

 

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review 2017-07-23 22:18
The Dark is Rising: The Dark is Rising Sequence, Book Two
The Dark is Rising - Susan Cooper,Susan Cooper

The one big wish Will Stanton has for his 11th birthday is a snowstorm. And does he get it! And a lot more than this too. He and his older brother, James, note the strange behavior of frightened animals who seem to know something wicked this way comes. Will sees an old man from a distance. James thinks it's just a tramp, but a neighboring farmer knows otherwise, "So the Walker is abroad. Ah. He would be." Just as mysterious as these words is the curious birthday gift the farmer gives to Will: an iron circle quartered.

 

That night, Will is alone in his attic bedroom when a overwhelming fear grips him. He wakes the next morning to the sound of music and a landscape drenched in snow. But he does not wake in the same time period he feel asleep in. For whatever reason, he has entered a different one. He leaves home and walks along paths, familiar and strange at the same time. He encounters a blacksmith he knows and a mysterious horseman who waits while the smith shoes his animal. Twice the horseman tries to trap Will with words and once tries to grab him. Will's wits rescue him from the first two instances, and the smith comes to his aid in the third. To Will's own amazement, he says he is there to seek out the Walker, who he encounters shortly after leaving the smith.

 

The horseman finds him again, but this time a white horse rescues him. It leaps through a patch of blue sky to transport him to another land. There Will discovers two doors standing alone on a hill. He steps through them into a great hall and meet an old woman and a tall man, adversaries of the horseman. The tall man identifies himself as Merriman Lyon, the formal name of Great-Uncle Merry in the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone. He says he and the woman have awaited Will for a long time and reveal to him his special gift and destiny: he is an Old One, beings charged with finding six Signs of the Light to battle the Darkness as it again spreads through the world. Will has the first Sign already, which the horseman recognized, and which places the young boy in terrible peril.

 

Merriman returns Will to the present day without a moment lost. The dark forces arrayed against him have made their first assaults against him, and it only gets worse. This is much better than the first volume. Only Merriman repeats here, while all else is new and more exciting and dramatic. The vividness of the Dark and the battle against it are the best parts. Susan Cooper can write!

 

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review 2017-07-22 22:57
Greenwitch: The Dark is Rising Sequence, Book Three
Greenwitch - Susan Cooper

This third volume of The Dark is Rising sequence returns us to the Drew children and the theft of the Trewissick Grail they found at the end at the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone. How the priceless artifact was stolen from a museum baffles the police, as there is no evidence of a break-in. Merry confirms what the children suspect: the Dark took it. He asks them to come with him back to Cornwall during the Easter break.

 

As it happens, Will Stanton from the second book, The Dark is Rising, is also headed there with his Uncle Bill. None other than Merry picks them up at Will's house, but neither give away the fact they already know each other. The Drew boys do not like Will, for how are they going to find the grail again if some other boy is always going to be with them?

 

The boys' sister, Jane, accepts the nocturnal invitation to attend the annual, ladies-only, making of the Greenwitch, a tall figure made of leaves and branches, who the women then ask for whatever they wish. Only Jane feels the tremendous power in the figure - and its terrible loneliness. Her wish is for it to be happy. The leader of the event tells her this is a dangerous thing to request. The event ends in the morning with the figure cast off a cliff into the sea.

 

Will and Merry discuss the latest disguise a member of the Dark has taken: a painter who stole a picture Barney made and who also tried to break into the crowd around the Greenwitch just before it tumbled into the water. Simon and Barney follow Rufus the dog to the painter's home. Barney finds not only his painting but the stolen grail.

 

Will and Merry launch a desperate search for the Greenwitch and what it possesses: the lost manuscript from the first book that would give the Dark terrible power if used in conjunction with the grail.

 

Will and Merry are not the only one who seek the Greenwitch. What is that painter doing out after dark? And what does Jane's wish for the witch's happiness have to do with it?

 

I didn't like this book as much as the first two because it was not as interesting or exciting until towards the end.

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