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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

#RandomReview - Circle of Stones

Book Title: Circle of Stones

Author: Anna Lee Waldo

Reviewed By: Lynn D.

Circle of Stones is an historical novel set in Wales in the 12th century. Owain of Gwynedd is Prince of Wales. King Henry II is on the English throne, constantly threatening to invade Wales. The New Religionists (Christians) are rising to power and the Old Religionists (Druids) are beginning to be persecuted. Set amid this political intrigue and cultural upheaval, this is Brenda's story.

Brenda is one of several of Prince Owain's mistresses. She conceives her third child auspiciously under a beautiful display of aurora borealis. The Druids believe this child will be a "savior" and bring peace to their people.

By strange coincidence, three children are born to the Prince within the same hour on the same day - Brenda's son Madoc, Dafydd, born to Owain's mistress Christiannt, and his wife Gladys' son. Gladys' child is stillborn. Prince Owain "replaces" Gladys's child with Christiannt's Dafydd and, based on a  superstitious prophesy, attempts to murder Brenda's child. With the help of the Druid community, Brenda fakes the child's death and she and the baby escape to Ireland. When Owain sends soldier's to find her, she leaves Madoc with the Irish druids and returns to Owain's court.

Will Owain ever learn about Madoc? What happens to Dafydd? What about the prophesy that Owain will be murdered by one of his own sons? How does Thomas Beckett figure in this epic tale? All good reasons to read this book!

Why you picked it up: I have some Welsh ancestors so the history of this region sparks my interest. This is the story behind the Welsh myth that Madoc, with several shiploads of druids, sailed to America and settled here centuries before Columbus "discovered" America. I had not heard this myth but you can read about it in this Wikipedia article.
A side note... one of my favorite Young Adult series is Maggie Stiefvater's "Raven Cycle," a contemporary fantasy series in which Owain's grandson Llewelyn the Great figures prominently.

Why you finished it: Once I got into the story, it was hard not to keep turning the pages - lots of history, fascinating characters and information about Druid culture. The author did a tremendous amount of research; most of the events happened and the characters are based on real people, including Owain and his wives and mistresses, Brenda and Madoc, and King Henry II and Thomas Beckett,
There is a second book Circle of Stars that continues Madoc's story and his voyage to America.

Who you would recommend it to: I would recommend this book to anyone that likes epic historical fiction, stories of Welsh folklore, or stories with strong female characters.

Although the Library owns Circle of Stars, we do not own Circle of Stones. It is available through Interlibrary Loan.

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