My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Morgan Llywelyn is one of my all-time favorite authors. I love her take on Celtic history and mythology – particularly the way she can tell larger than life stories and still not lose sight of the individual people at the heart of the legend. Her latest book, Brendan, tells the story of St. Brendan the Navigator who, according to legend, sailed off to find Paradise, visiting many fantastic places and having many incredible adventures along the way. It reminded me a lot of an Irish / Christian version of Homer’s Odyssey.
I can’t say that Brendan will ever be my favorite Morgan Llywelyn book. It never quite lives up to Llywelyn’s best (Lion of Ireland, Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish, Red Branch, or Finn MacCool) but it was an interesting read.
EDIT – It’s been a couple of days since I read and reviewed Brendan and I think I have finally figured out what it is that falls short in this book. It feels rushed – like the author has just sort of skimmed the story. The set up is similar to more successful Morgan Llywelyn books – a single, legendary character leading a band of brothers on a great adventure. But in Red Branch, you REALLY got to know the members of the Red Branch. They had histories and personalities and you cared what happened to them. They were important to the story and important to the reader. In Finn Mac Cool, the warriors of the Fianna were fleshed out characters – goals and ambitions, skills and weaknesses. Llywelyn didn’t ignore them and focus completely on Finn. That wasn’t the case for Brendan. A couple of his fellow monks were fleshed out but for the most part they were faceless, inter-changeable props. There were three characters that traveled with Brendan on his famous journey that never even received names. And at times, the story was a bit light. Each stop on the journey to Paradise was brief, only a couple of pages and other than losing an occasional un-named character, never really seemed to have much of an impact on anything that came afterwards. Don’t get me wrong, there were parts of Brendan that were interesting to read but do not take this book to be a good example of a Morgan Llywelyn book. She has written many books that are much, much better.
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