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The Iron Lance (Celtic Crusades, Book 1) [Hardcover]

Stephen R. Lawhead , Steve Lawhead
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 22 1998

Amidst visions of the ancient past, a Scottish lawyer glimpses the harrowing pilgrimage of an ancestor whose fight for his family's future leads him into the terrifying maelstrom of the Crusades.

In the year 1095, Pope Urban II declared war on the infidel. Kings, princes, and lords throughout Europe took up the Cross and joined the Crusade. It was Murdo Ranulfson's duty to guard his family's interests while his father and brothers fought to win Jerusalem. But when a greedy king and corrupt clergy charged with the protection of Orkney become its worst enemies, Murdo must undertake the pilgrimage himself.

Driven to the sea, Murdo follows the Crusades in the hope of finding his father and redeeming his family's land. His epic journey leads him to the heart of the civilized world, the Mediterranean, where the Emperor Alexius struggles to fend off the barbarian hordes that would rend Christendom and engulf the world in darkness.

Murdo's quest carries him to the fabled city of Constantinople and beyond to the Holy Land, guarded by the sword points of the Saracens. Amidst unimaginable brutality and ambition, he finds the man he seeks -- and obtains the relic that will guide his life and the lives of his descendants for centuries.

Steeped in heroism, treachery, and the clamor of battle, The Iron Lance begins an epic trilogy of a noble Scottish family fighting for its existence and its faith during the age of the Great Crusades -- and of a secret society whose hidden ceremonies will shape history for a thousand years.

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From Amazon

Most of Stephen Lawhead's popular historical fantasies are part of one or another of his sagas, trilogies, or cycles. For readers who enjoy big galloping yarns set in distant lands, and don't mind having their hands held by the author every step of the way, the first volume of his new Christian trilogy should hit the spot.

The framing device begins at the end of the nineteenth century, in Edinburgh, where Gordon Murray is about to be inducted into an ancient brotherhood whose secret rites involve a sacred relic: the iron lance of the title. The main narrative is set in eleventh century Orkney. When Pope Urban II calls for the retaking of Jerusalem from the infidel, the local lord, Ranulf, joins the Crusade with his elder sons, leaving behind young Murdo to oversee the family holdings. When the Church, through a nefarious scheme, confiscates the house and holdings, Murdo has no choice but to follow the Crusaders to the Holy Land and bring his father home to fix the whole mess.

Lawhead paints a vast and exotic canvas of medieval world politics, then peoples it with colorful characters--cunning Byzantine rulers, bluff Norman knights, gap-toothed, shaggy-brained Saxon peasants--who encounter visions and miracles, brutality and ambition, love and justice. At the end of the main narrative, Murdo gets what he wants but not in the ways expected. The framing narrative ends with hints that, as the world lurches towards a new millennium, Gordon Murray's Christian secret society is the world's only hope for survival, and the time nears for the brotherhood to reveal itself. --Luc Duplessis --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This massive historical-fantasy novel about the First Crusade begins a family-saga trilogy recounting the story of a mysterious mystical order founded upon the discovery of the spear that pierced Christ's side as he hung on the cross. The narrative is framed as a series of visions by a Victorian Scots lawyer, who begins by seeing his ancestors leaving the Orkneys on the Crusade, except for the youngest brother, Murdo, who remains behind to watch the family holdings. When fraudulent clerics take those lands, Murdo attempts to rejoin his family. In describing the young man's journey to the Holy Land, Lawhead displays considerable historical scholarship, some talent for depicting picaresque adventures and verbiage in such excess that the emotional impact of the climax?the discovery of the lance?is diminished. Lawhead is known for his ability to combine Arthurian and Christian fantasy, as in his Pendragon Cycle, blending disparate elements into engaging if frequently overlong tales. But here the historian overwhelms the storyteller. The novel fails to meet Lawhead's usual standard, let alone that of other time-binding fantasies such as the novels of Diana Gabaldon. Agency, William Morris.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars After a bit of a slow start, it is terrific Oct. 30 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I am one of those people who is finding Lawhead a little later in his career. This is the second book of his I have read - I missed the books surrounding Arthur and others he wrote earlier in his career. I read his novel about Patrick last year and it was pretty good, but it didn't make me a committed fan of his. After reading this one I am much more of a fan.
The story centers around the Crusade of the late 1000's and 1100's. The central character is Murdo Ranulfson, who wants to join the crusade but is too young. His father and brothers go on the crusade but he is unable to and it grates on his terribly. While his father and brothers are gone, his family is the victim of the treachery of some unscrupulous churchmen, and they lose their estate. This sets Murdo on a course of action where he journeys to the Holy Land to try to find his father, in order to bring him back to claim his lands.
On this journey to and from the Holy Land, Murdo grows from a precocious boy into a man of strength and character. As he makes his way across the sea and to his father he has many adventures which shape his character. He is befriended by Celtic monks who help guide and care for him and who show him the way of the True Path.
There are many reasons I liked this story - this is a "Christian" book by a "Christian author" with many Christian themes. But, the characters are not your stereotypical characters that are found in so much Christian fiction. There is a wonderful conversion scene involving Murdo but it is done in a very believable way. We see Murdo's struggles along the way, and he doesn't become a saint nor does this conversion scene wipe away all of his troubles. Instead, a very real and human person struggles along in his faith in a very harsh and brutal time of history.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Lawhead drops a notch below Pendragon & Albion Aug. 5 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In the Celtic Crusades trilogy, acclaimed Christian fantasy writer Stephen Lawhead again tries his hand at historical fiction, just as he did in his successful Byzantium. The adventure revolves around Murdo Ranulfson, whose brothers and father leave Scotland to join one of the eleventh century Crusades to rescue Jerusalem from the infidel. When usurpers confiscate his home and property, Murdo leaves his native land and his new bride Ragna, to find his father and brothers and call them to return home and restore their property. Together with three mysterious priests, his quest takes him to the center of the crusaders' action in sacking Jerusalem in 1099, where he soon becomes part of the search for the iron lance, the relic which apparently pierced Christ's side and now seems to magically guarantee the crusaders victory. Juxtoposed with Murdo's personal quest, is the much larger and epic story of the crusade.
In place of Lawhead's usual fantasy, "The Iron Lance" instead is full of historical adventure. But unfortunately Lawhead doesn't succeed in this effort at historical fiction to the same extent as he did in "Byzantium". There are too many loose ends, coincidences, and implausibilities. Unlike some of his other efforts, here the bad guys are neatly vanquished and the good guy gets the gold, the glory, and the girl. The Iron Lance lacks the deep and contrasting passions of glory and tragedy that I came to love from the Pendragon Cycle and the Song of Albion trilogy. And the framing device about Gordon Murray who is initiated into a mystical nineteenth century secret society of brotherhood has little obvious connection with the rest of the book.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Definitely the last 'Lawhead' for me. Feb. 16 2003
By komkon2
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Credits go to atmosphere and prose. Character development is poor - we don't get to know the hero Murdo's interests and ambitions if he has any at all. Instead of a free mind he has visions of Holy Andrew and monks for company that provide him with any advice needed to carry the story forward. Others have already noted the plot is perspicuous. Well, what plot? Poor peasant leaves home and girl friend and returns a wealthy man ... I have now read through the Pendragon and Song of Albion cycles, and though all of Lawhead's books grip you to a certain extent (this was the worst), and I loved and can recommend some ("Merlin"), in the end I find that Lawhead lacks a sense for drama and inner conflicts. Gillian Bradshaw's Camelot trilogy makes you cry. Evangeline Walton's Mabinogion preserves the drama, humour, and dreamlike qualities of the original Celtic tales. I'm not familiar with books about the crusades, but there surely must be better ones than this. His books shortened my winter nights, and winter has passed.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging Historical Fantasy Jan. 8 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Stephen Lawhead's "The Iron Lance" is an engrossing work of historical fantasy, set against the Celtic Crusades of 1099. The plot has two major threads:
- Thread One: Murdo, our hero, who follows his father and brothers to Jerusalem in 1099 from his home in the isles.
- Thread Two: A man whose name "is of no importance" in Scotland in 1899. He is an initiate of a sacred and secret Brotherhood.
The plot follows Murdo through the "taking of the cross" to falling in love with Ragna, and the misfortunes heaped upon his family by the greedy local Bishop. Murdo travels to the Holy Land, on his own, to find his brothers and father and restore his family's lands. As he searches for his family in Jerusalem, he witnesses the terrible sacking of the city in 1099. Murdo is witness to political intrigue, many battles, and foreign cities and customs.
The details of the second plot are interspersed throughout Murdo's journey. The reader is never quite sure how this Brotherhood relates to Murdo, the lines are left deliberately vague. This vagueness compels you to keep reading the series, to determine how these ancient Crusades fit in with 1899 Scotland and this mysterious Brotherhood.
Lawhead has created a captivating novel with The Iron Lance. The attention to detail and historical accuracy make this a compelling work of historical fantasy.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Journey
First let me say that this book has ZERO fantasy elements, why it's cataloged as such is a mystery (at least to me). Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessable accuracy
Despite a certain amount of scepticism on picking this one up (after all, how many 'fantasy writers' can continue to come up with the goods trilogy after trilogy?) I'm sold. Read more
Published on Oct. 21 2002 by MS N J HOLT
4.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling Historical Fiction
"The Iron Lance" was my first Stephen R. Lawhead novel and it was a novel that I enjoyed all the way through. Read more
Published on Sept. 26 2002 by rzaster
2.0 out of 5 stars Fair to putrid
This book definitely did not meet my expectations.
For starters, I didn't find Murdo to be all that sympathetic a character. Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2002 by Titus
2.0 out of 5 stars Lawhead is in a rut
The Iron Lance is a real disappointment after having read Byzantium.
The book starts out by setting up Christian conspiracy that has existed since (at least) the days of the... Read more
Published on June 27 2002 by Evan M. Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Who's Lawhead?
Some say the Iron Lance is a sequel to Byzantium, but Do Not Be Deceived! You do not have to have read Buyzantium, The Pendragon Cycle, or any other of Lawhead's books to enjoy... Read more
Published on March 5 2002 by kp
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Stephen Lawhead Masterpiece
My mom brought this home for me one day, knowing that I was lacking a book to read and knowing, both of us having read Stephen Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle, how much of a wonderful... Read more
Published on Jan. 19 2002 by Taryn
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Historical Fiction I ever Read.
Author Lawhead writes a story full of action, adventure, and sudden realization. The story kept me so intrigued, I couldn't wait for the next installment of the series. Read more
Published on Oct. 30 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book read
Everyone in doubt, trust me, this is a book to match the gods. For all of you mistified, historical, noble blood people, this is a book for your leisure.
Published on Oct. 15 2001 by Juan E Eguiguren
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