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Posts Tagged ‘circle of ceridwen book review’

Well, four books, as I am just beginning Book Five. But Book Five has a different “voice” and so I believe I can tell you about books 1-4 and not be remiss in my review.

Have you read “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon? Who hasn’t, right? And how many had to set the second book aside or shield their eyes from the rape scene on Starz network? Historically accurate, entirely fictional, very lusty, and millions of fans. Also includes time travel and is therefore, a sort of science fiction.

Enter Octavia Randolph from Stage Left. She also loves history. But she’s not so much about time travel.

Outlander takes place in the 1700’s and includes history we all learned from sweeping cinematic sagas like “Braveheart” and “The Patriot” (which both happen to star Mel Gibson). There’s a lot of historical inaccuracies in the movies, but let’s face it, American history classes are pretty tepid, dwelling mostly on the Civil War and the Oregon Trail. History, as it is taught now in public schools, is very different from history as it was taught 50 years ago, in my youth. What I know of European history came from a 6th grade class and a one-semester college course, and stuff I have gleaned from National Geographic over the decades.

I know little enough about the settlement of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland – yet most of my DNA comes from there. When my Christian friends were celebrating the fact they were grafted to Israel, I was longing for my heathen ancestors in what is now known as Great Britain. No, I’m not looking for the pagan gods – my choice was made long ago for One above those – but I still hold a holy curiosity for those pagan rituals, songs, and ways. Who were these people who formed my DNA?

Vikings, Welsh slaves, Picts upon the shores, dark-haired Irish, Scots who built Melrose Abbey? Franks (Germans), Nords, Finns.

Perhaps it is that genetic memory that helped pull me into the tale of Ceridwen, or the fact that we both share a “hard” C where the English wish to make it an “s” sound. Or that I listen to Welsh folk music on occasion.

Nah, none of that. It is the story itself, and the voice of Ceridwen, named after the ancient Welsh goddess herself.

We meet Ceridwen when she is 15. In our world, she would be a child. In her world, she was of marrying age. It is late in the 9th century, and the orphan, Ceridwen, has to make a hard choice: become a nun or marry one of the land holders that the Prior who has raised her has chosen for her. Head strong and independent, Ceridwen has other ideas. She has honor, however, and when she steals away, she pays for everything she takes out of her pagan inheritance.

Ceridwen soon meets her first (and only true) girlfriend upon the road, a maid of 17 who has been given as a pledge of peace to a Danish warrior. Ælfwyn and Ceridwen become the dearest friends and it is their friendship that threads the four stories. They are ever true to each other, with an honesty that runs deeper than the souls of most men.

Indeed, men can be such treacherous creatures in the 9th century (or any century, for that matter – as the term “rape culture” presently exists to explain the dominance men have ever sought over women). (Not ALL men)

Ceridwen’s voice is honest, innocent, thoughtful, observant. Her adventures (and they rival those of Claire, in Outlander, at times) are not to be envied. Her deep loves are true. Her fate is woven by the goddess Freyja, twin to Freyr. Her heathen faith runs opposites with the conquest of Rome, but she ever treats Christians as her own brothers and sisters (and, indeed, her beloved Ælfwyn is a devout Christian). Ceridwen is honest about her faith: she realizes early on that she was never truly converted, but was merely raised by a prior who never saw fit to truly convert her.

I don’t want to do any spoilers. Ceridwen’s voice is forthright and honest, sometimes a bit innocent. Her growing relationship with the Dane, Sidroc, is sometimes punctuated with a humor that you maybe have to be married to see building (they fight, verbally, a lot). Ceridwen never sees people’s handicaps, but loves them as they are. Yet, she commits sins that haunt her for her lifetime, and very nearly destroy her in book 4.

Randolph’s devotion to ancient history shines through in the descriptions of trade, the use of antiquated names, the sea trade, the settling of England by Danes (vikings), and the peace treaties made therein. Anyone who thinks the Americas were settled unfairly needs to read this series or to study ancient British history to understand that what happened to America was only an extension of how Europe was settled and expanded upon. I think, perhaps, upon the European lands, men honored treaties a while longer than they did in the western expansion of the Americas. But I am very much a novice at these things.

The ancient gods actually take on a life of their own, and the celebrations and sacrifices to them bear some poignant reminder of how men had begun to revere the Fates that kept them safe from harm. While I have my own thoughts on these things, they are thoughts that come from the God that one of the later characters devoutly worshiped; Jhesu Christu. I would hope that Randolph will later develop the character of Sparrow, the flesh-slave girl freed by Ceridwen from that cruel industry (which happens to exist even in out day of “enlightenment”).

Ceridwen doesn’t time travel. She knows no future time of penicillin and modern medicine, as does Claire in Outlander. Ceridwen cleans wounds and sews them up with great reluctance and a weak stomach. She is honest about this. But both women share this in common: they are not about to be intimidated nor ruled. They are independent women, with words as sharp as tacks. Men either love or hate them.

And those men that hate them would force them into submission by force.

God must hate such men.

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