The Iron Lance (Celtic Crusades, Book 1) Hardcover – Dec 1998
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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 the Paperback edition.
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Lawhead is second to none in the genre of historical fiction, but don't take my word for it, books like Byzantium and the Pendragon cycle are now the industry's established benchmark for their respective themes. And that is not without good reason.
The first thing that you notice as you read this (or any other Lawhead) book, is the attention to detail that instead of making the story tedious, transport you there instantly. The pace and style of this book is somewhere between Ben Hur and Indiana Jones, with a dash of Ivanhoe, and the Ancient-meets-Medieval melange of genres is pulled off masterfully by this skilled author.
This is a fine novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I have ordered Black Rood, which seems to be getting good reviews as well, but I do not need a review to tell me how good these books are. They are treasures, and I will read this again (something I rarely do) while I wait for The Black Rood!
Lawhead is a highly talented writer but too often settles for easy, trite answers and peoples his stories with shallow, one-dimensional characters. Unfortunately the protagonist in this one, Murdo, is one of his worst creations. Yet another cliched innocent young man wronged by someone more powerful (nothing wrong with that part in theory), Murdo is an unexceptional character: a whiny, weak, frightened, unskilled farmboy who spends have the novel pining away for his love Ragna.
This is another of Lawhead's increasingly torturous tricks: placing his lead into a position of yearning and lust for a woman flirts and plays him but never comes clean about her intentions. Again, nothing wrong with this in theory but since we seen it from him about ten times over the last fifteen years this device is extremely tired and worn out.
As are Lawhead's descriptions of battles... it's as if he just copies out the prose from his other novels Taleisin, Merlin, Arthur, and transposes them here.
But the worst part of Lawhead's narratives these days are his incessant reminders of what a great and powerful God these warriors follow. Heavy handed and predictable comments about how 'good God is' and how 'kind Jesu is' have grown so wearisome on the reader over the years that though I've come to expect it in every novel now I can hardly stomach these contrived 'subplots'. In Byzantium it Adain's loss of faith and subsequently illogical and abrupt re-embrace of his beliefs and in Iron Lance it is Murdo's rather contrived plot device of despising Christians and their religion because of the church's seizure of his lands... only to inexplicably embrace this God whom he so loathed.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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. Read morePublished on Aug. 5 2003 by Godly Gadfly
Stephen Lawhead's "The Iron Lance" is an engrossing work of historical fantasy, set against the Celtic Crusades of 1099. Read morePublished on Jan. 8 2003 by C. Bennett
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 morePublished on Jan. 4 2003
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 morePublished on Oct. 21 2002 by MS N J HOLT
"The Iron Lance" was my first Stephen R. Lawhead novel and it was a novel that I enjoyed all the way through. Read morePublished on Sept. 26 2002 by rzaster
This book definitely did not meet my expectations.
For starters, I didn't find Murdo to be all that sympathetic a character. Read more
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
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 morePublished on March 5 2002 by kp
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 morePublished on Jan. 19 2002 by Taryn
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