I’ve been reading the works of fantasy writer Stephen Lawhead for a number of years. He is a writer who is a Christian (as opposed to a “Christian writer”—a distinction made by C.S. Lewis if I recall), and one that I appreciate greatly. His novel Byzantium remains my favorite of his and one of my favorite of all time. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I personally also truly appreciated the Song of Albion trilogy and the Celtic Crusade trilogy. Again, I am a fan, though I always come away feeling that Lawhead is a good writer but not a great writer. He has great moments, to be sure, and that is why I keep coming back to his work. Also, his historical research and grasp of Celtic and Arthurian lore is evident and skillfully employed in his work.
In In the Region of the Summer Stars Lawhead has given us another solid offering. This is the beginning of a new series, the Eirlandia series. It is focused largely on a young warrior, Conor mac Arden, who is banished from his clan on trumped-up charges and who begins to suspect that Lord Brecan, King of the Brigantes, and the most powerful King in Eirlandia, is involved in a secret alliance with the hated Scalda who occupy the southern realm. Conor, soon joined by two of his warrior comrades who seek him out and believe him to be innocent, clashes with the Scalda, helps free and then befriends some of the faery people—who are being taken hostage by the Scalda who want access to their magic and power—then infiltrates Brecan’s warrior band to see what he can discover.
The first 2/3rds of the book, while interesting and well-written, drags a bit, though it does set the stage well for what is to come. In the last quarter of the book the pace quickens with some truly impressive and exciting descriptions of fighting and action sequences. Furthermore, the story becomes more nuanced and clear. I finished the book with greater anticipation for the second book in the series than I had in the first half of the book (though I hasten to add the first half was interesting as well). Stick with it. It is worth it.
As for the writing, it is vintage Lawhead. It has an epic feel to it and the terminology roots the reader effectively in the realm of druids and warriors and faeries. There are thrones and halls and bowls of ale and torcs and siarcs and swords and horses. If you like that whole scene, you’ll like this! And I’m a sucker for stories like this.
I’m excited to start book 2. This looks to be a promising series. Check it out!