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The Iron Lance (Celtic Crusades, Book 1) Hardcover – Dec 1998

4.1 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Dec 1998
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99 by Wayne Gretzky 99 by Wayne Gretzky

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 499 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Canada / Fiction (December 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061050326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061050329
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 4 x 24.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 771 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,243,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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 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.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
I'm not entirely convinced that the person who submitted the negative reviews below actually read the book, so I am submitting my personal impressions of the book instead.
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!
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By A Customer on June 26 1999
Format: Hardcover
Once again Lawhead turns his attentions to a prominent place in our history, this time the Crusades.
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.
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