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 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.
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 ›
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.Read more ›
- 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.
Most recent customer reviews
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
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 morePublished on Oct. 30 2001
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