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The Paradise War (Song of Albion Series #1)
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The Paradise War (Song of Albion Series #1)

4.3 117
by Stephen R. Lawhead
 

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Combining skillful storytelling with a strong spiritual vision, Stephen Lawhead has established his name among the front ranks of contemporary historical fantasy writers. An American, Lawhead moved to Britain, where he now lives, in order to research the Celtic legend and history that are at the heart of his stories. He is the author of more than a dozen works of

Overview

Combining skillful storytelling with a strong spiritual vision, Stephen Lawhead has established his name among the front ranks of contemporary historical fantasy writers. An American, Lawhead moved to Britain, where he now lives, in order to research the Celtic legend and history that are at the heart of his stories. He is the author of more than a dozen works of fantasy and science fiction, including the best-selling Pendragon Cycle.

Editorial Reviews

Books Magazine
To set foot in Albion is to enter a rich world of fantasy,rooted in Celtic mythology. An astonishingly imaginative story sequence.
Bookstore Journal
In a style reminiscent of Tolkien,Lawhead presents a world of vivid imagery. This book is a delight.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Lewis Gillies is pursuing graduate work in Celtic studies at Oxford when his rich roommate, Simon Rawnson, slips through a hole in a cairn to the land of the Tuatha de Danann. With the help of an eccentric professor, Lewis pursues Simon and finds himself playing a major role in some important Celtic myths. In retelling these myths, Lawhead ( Arthur ) allows his characters to become unspecific archetypes who therefore fail to hold the reader's interest. As he is herded from event to event, Lewis, supposedly a Celtic scholar, fails to recognize the import of these occurences. Throughout, Lawhead tells his readers what to feel rather than letting his story move them. (June)
Library Journal
Two Oxford graduate students stumble upon a stone cairn in Scotland and enter a magical ``Otherworld'' at once removed from and intimately connected to their own reality, becoming embroiled in an ancient battle against an evil that threatens both worlds. Lawhead, whose Pendragon Cycle ( Taliesin , LJ 8/87; Merlin , Crossway Bks., 1988; Arthur , Crossway Bks., 1989) established him as a frontrunner among contemporary Christian fantastists, demonstrates a genuine love for and understanding of Anglo-Celtic mythology in this first volume of a projected series. A worthwhile purchase for most fantasy collections.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781595542199
Publisher:
Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date:
09/05/2006
Series:
Song of Albion Series , #1
Pages:
464
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Since all the world is but a story,

it were well for thee to buy

the more enduring story rather than

the story that is less enduring.

the judgment of st. colum cille

(St. Columba of Scotland)

Chapter One

An Aurochs in the Works

It all began with the aurochs.

We were having breakfast in our rooms at college. Simon was presiding over the table with his accustomed critique on the world as evidenced by the morning's paper. "Oh, splendid," he sniffed. "It looks as if we have been invaded by a pack of free-loading foreign photographers keen on exposing their film--and who knows what else--to the exotic delights of Dear Old Blighty. Lock up your daughters, Bognor Regis! European paparazzi are loose in the land!"

He rambled on a while, and then announced: "Hold on! Have a gawk at this!" He snapped the paper sharp and sat up straight--an uncommon posture for Simon.

"Gawk at what?" I asked idly. This thing of his--reading the paper aloud to a running commentary of facile contempt, scorn, and sarcasm, well mixed and peppered with his own unique blend of cynicism--had long since ceased to amuse me. I had learned to grunt agreeably while eating my egg and toast. This saved having to pay attention to his tirades, eloquent though they often were.

"Some bewildered Scotsman has found an aurochs in his patch."

"You don't say." I dipped a corner of toast triangle into the molten center of a soft-boiled egg and read an item about a disgruntled driver on the London Underground refusing to stop to let off passengers, thereby compelling a train full of frantic commuters to ride the Circle Line for over five hours. "That's interesting."

"Apparently the beast wandered out of a nearby wood and collapsed in the middle of a hay field twenty miles or so east of Inverness." Simon lowered the paper and gazed at me over the top. "Did you hear what I just said?"

"Every word. Wandered out of the forest and fell down next to Inverness--probably from boredom," I replied. "I know just how he felt."

Simon stared at me. "Don't you realize what this means?"

"It means that the local branch of the RSPCA gets a phone call. Big deal." I took a sip of coffee and returned to the sports page before me. "I wouldn't call it news exactly."

"You don't know what an aurochs is, do you?" he accused. "You haven't a clue."

"A beast of some sort--you said so yourself just now," I pro­tested. "Really, Simon, the papers you read--" I flicked his upraised tabloid with a disdainful finger. "Look at these so-called headlines: 'Princess Linked to Alien Sex Scheme!' and 'Shock Horror Weekend for Bishop with Massage Parlor Turk!' Honestly, you only read those rags to fuel your pessimism."

He was not moved. "You haven't the slightest notion what an aurochs is. Go on, Lewis, admit it."

I took a wild stab. "It's a breed of pig."

"Nice try!" Simon tossed his head back and laughed. He had a nasty little fox-bark that he used when he wanted to deride someone's ignorance. Simon was extremely adept at derision--a master of disdain, mockery, and ridicule in general.

I refused to be drawn. I returned to my paper and stuffed the toast into my mouth.

"A pig? Is that what you said?" He laughed again.

"Okay, okay! What, pray tell, is an aurochs, Professor Rawnson?"

Simon folded the paper in half and then in quarters. He creased it and held it before me. "An aurochs is a sort of ox."

"Why, think of that," I gasped in feigned astonishment. "An ox, you say? It fell down? Oh my, what won't they think of next?" I yawned. "Give me a break."

"Put like that it doesn't sound like much," Simon allowed. Then he added, "Only it just so happens that this particular ox is an ice-age creature which has been extinct for the last two thousand years."

"Extinct." I shook my head slowly. "Where do they get this malarkey? If you ask me, the only thing that's extinct around here is your native skepticism."

"It seems the last aurochs died out in Britain sometime before the Romans landed--although a few may have survived on the continent into the sixth century or so."

"Fascinating," I replied.

Simon shoved the folded paper under my nose. I saw a grainy, badly printed photo of a huge black mound that might or might not have been mammalian in nature. Standing next to this ill-defined mass was a grim-looking middle-aged man holding a very long, curved object in his hands, roughly the size and shape of an old-fashioned scythe. The object appeared to be attached in some way to the black bulk beside him.

"How bucolic! A man standing next to a manure heap with a farm implement in his hands. How utterly homespun," I scoffed in a fair imitation of Simon himself.

"That manure heap, as you call it, is the aurochs, and the implement in the farmer's hands is one of the animal's horns."

I looked at the photo again and could almost make out the animal's head below the great slope of its shoulders. Judging by the size of the horn, the animal would have been enormous--easily three or four times the size of a normal cow. "Trick photography," I declared.

Simon clucked his tongue. "I am disappointed in you, Lewis. So cynical for one so young."

"You don't actually believe this"--I jabbed the paper with my finger--"this trumped-up tripe, do you? They make it up by the yard--manufacture it by the carload!"

"Well," Simon admitted, picking up his teacup and gazing into it, "you're probably right."

"You bet I'm right," I crowed. Prematurely, as it turned out. I should have known better.

"Still, it wouldn't hurt to check it out." He lifted the cup, swirled the tea, and drained it. Then, as if his mind were made up, he placed both hands flat on the tabletop and stood.

I saw the sly set of his eyes. It was a look I knew well and dreaded. "You can't be serious."

"But I am perfectly serious."

"Forget it."

"Come on. It will be an adventure."

"I've got a meeting with my adviser this afternoon. That's more than enough adventure for me."

"I want you with me," Simon insisted.

"What about Susannah?" I countered. "I thought you were supposed to meet her for lunch."

"Susannah will understand." He turned abruptly. "We'll take my car."

"No. Really. Listen, Simon, we can't go chasing after this ox thing. It's ridiculous. It's nothing. It's like those fairy rings in the cornfields that had everybody all worked up last year. It's a hoax. Besides, I can't go--I've got work to do, and so have you."

"A drive in the country will do you a world of good. Fresh air. Clear the cobwebs. Nourish the inner man." He walked briskly into the next room. I could hear him dialing the phone, and a moment later he said, "Listen, Susannah, about today . . . terribly sorry, dear heart, something's come up . . . Yes, just as soon as I get back . . . Later . . . Yes, Sunday, I won't forget . . . cross my heart and hope to die. Cheers!" He replaced the receiver and dialed again. "Rawnson here. I'll be needing the car this morning . . . Fifteen minutes. Right. Thanks, awfully."

"Simon!" I shouted. "I refuse!"

***

This is how I came to be standing in St. Aldate's on a rainy Friday morning in the third week of Michaelmas term, drizzle dripping off my nose, waiting for Simon's car to be brought around, wondering how he did it.

We were both graduate students, Simon and I. We shared rooms, in fact. But where Simon had only to whisper into the phone and his car arrived when and where he wanted it, I couldn't even get the porter to let me lean my poor, battered bicycle against the gate for half a minute while I checked my mail. Rank hath its privileges, I guess.

Nor did the gulf between us end there. While I was little above medium height, with a build that, before the mirror, could only be described as weedy, Simon was tall and regally slim, well muscled, yet trim--the build of an Olympic fencer. The face I displayed to the world boasted plain, somewhat lumpen features, crowned with a lackluster mat the color of old walnut shells. Simon's features were sharp, well cut, and clean; he had the kind of thick, dark, curly hair women admire and openly covet. My eyes were mouse gray; his were hazel. My chin drooped; his jutted.

The effect when we appeared in public together was, I imagine, much in the order of a live before-and-after advertisement for Nature's Own Wonder Vitamins & Handsome Tonic. He had good looks to burn and the sort of rugged and ruthless masculinity both sexes find appealing. I had the kind of looks that often improve with age, although it was doubtful that I should live so long.

A lesser man would have been jealous of Simon's bounteous good fortune. However, I accepted my lot and was content. All right, I was jealous too--but it was a very contented jealousy.

Anyway, there we were, the two of us, standing in the rain, traffic whizzing by, buses disgorging soggy passengers on the busy pavement around us, and me muttering in lame protest. "This is dumb. It's stupid. It's childish and irresponsible, that's what it is. It's nuts."

"You're right, of course," he agreed affably. Rain pearled on his driving cap and trickled down his waxed-cotton shooting jacket.

"We can't just drop everything and go racing around the country on a whim." I crossed my arms inside my plastic poncho. "I don't know how I let you talk me into these things."

"It's my utterly irresistible charm, old son." He grinned disarmingly. "We Rawnsons have bags of it."

"Yeah, sure."

"Where's your spirit of adventure?" My lack of adventurous spirit was something he always threw at me whenever he wanted me to go along with one of his lunatic exploits. I preferred to see myself as stable, steady-handed, a both-feet-on-the-ground, practical-as-pie realist through and through.

"It's not that," I quibbled. "I just don't need to lose four days of work for nothing."

"It's Friday," he reminded me. "It's the weekend. We'll be back on Monday in plenty of time for your precious work."

"We haven't even packed toothbrushes or a change of underwear," I pointed out.

"Very well," he sighed, as if I had beaten him down at last, "you've made your point. If you don't wish to go, I won't force you."

"Good."

"I'll go alone." He stepped into the street just as a gray Jaguar Sovereign purred to a halt in front of him. A man in a black bowler hat scrambled from the driver's seat and held the door for him.

"Thank you, Mr. Bates," Simon said. The man touched the brim of his hat and hurried away to the porters' lodge. Simon glanced at me across the rain-beaded roof of the sleek automobile and smiled. "Well, chum? Going to let me have all the fun alone?"

"Curse you, Simon!" I shouted, yanked the door open, and ducked in. "I don't need this!"

Laughing, Simon slid in and slammed the door. He shifted into gear, then punched the accelerator to the floor. The tires squealed on the wet pavement as the car leapt forward. Simon yanked the wheel and executed a highly illegal U-turn in the middle of the street, to the blaring of bus horns and the curses of cyclists.

Heaven help us, we were off.

Meet the Author

Stephen R. Lawhead is an internationally acclaimed author of mythic history and imaginative fiction.He is the author of such epics asThe King Raven, Song of Albion, and Dragon King Trilogies.Lawhead makes his home in Oxford, England, with his wife. Twitter: @StephenLawhead Facebook: StephenRLawhead

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The Paradise War (Song of Albion Series #1) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 118 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Now, I am no master in Celtic literature, or any aspect of Celtic culture, but this book made me feel as though i was a chieftain in a Celtic tribe. Probably the deepest and most symbolic series written with the exception of C.S. Lewis. I read the whole series in under 2 weeks, i couldnt put it down, I would sit in school or at work actually thinking I had been a victim of the Time-between-Times, the novel is completely engrossing, i would more than once come up from reading and completely forget which world I was in. I plan on reading this series many times over until the spine of the books collapse.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this series and in the hall of the dragon king series when i was in highschool. Othrr than harry potter and tolkien this is an amazing series. I read through all three quick. And recently i remembered the book but not the author it had been so long since reading them. I remembered the story and how much i loved reading them. I just now found this book and was so excited to remember the author! I cant wait to read both series again. Its rare of me to re read a book let alone a series. But these hp, lotr. And redwall i could read over and over.
Hill_Ravens More than 1 year ago
The Paradise War, Song of Albion part 1, is an enjoyable journey from current time London, to the otherworld of Celtic myth and legend. I laughed out loud and almost cried from merriment at the start of the book when Lewis and Simon are traveling across London to Scotland in an effort to prove each other wrong. Once the two end up in the Otherworld, the story takes a turn and really takes off in another direction. Events and places in this Otherworld are elusive at times and a little more background or detail would have been nice. Events start moving rapidly towards the end of the book, making it almost difficult to keep up with the characters and how the events occurring where changing them. This is a three part series and I am excited about reading the other two books and exploring other books by the author. Overall I really enjoyed the writing style and characters and hope the elusive instances will be explained further in one of the next books.
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DeadRaisin More than 1 year ago
This was a good book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great story with beauriful and deep symbolism.
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superchan More than 1 year ago
This is the 1st book I've read written by Stephen R. Lawhead and I really enjoyed it. Great story. Looking forward to the next in the series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the way Lawhead writes, you are pulled into the story instantly.
MK9p91 More than 1 year ago
Now that I've read this book I know all about Celtic folk lore, whether it's real or not. This book started out a little slow for me but once you start, you cannot stop. The Paradise War is extremely imaginative and is action-packed. I could picture everything single scene of the book. I highly recommend this book.
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