Friday Review: “Paradise War” Song of Albion Trilogy
This past week I wandered into LifeWay Bookstore in Springfield, VA eager to purchase a last-minute birthday gift for a co-worker whose office was nearby. As I wandered the aisles looking for a book to buy him my eyes alighted on a set of hardback books, a trilogy written by Stephen Lawhead called Song of Albion.
Almost didn’t recognize them as they sported new cover illustrations. Over the years I had wanted to buy another set of these books in hardback but had only seen paperback editions (and I wasn’t too eager to roll the dice on an Amazon used book order). Immediately my mind filled with delightful memories from the time when I first purchased the hardback edition of Book 1, “The Paradise War”.
My original copy of “The Paradise War” is well-worn. Once I read it I was so enthralled and captivated by the story that I became the Song of Albion evangel. First I told our renter (at the time) and still close friend, Jeannine Donato Gibson. She snatched the copy from me and quickly devoured the book. She asked if she could loan the book out. Soon after it was making its rounds from one reader to another, with each one as delighted as the last.
But my most lasting memory of the book involved my children. Once I finally got my copy back I decided to do something I had never done before… I decided to read this full-length novel out loud to my two older boys. I had read other books, kids books, shorter books to them but this was not a children’s book.
“The Paradise War” was published in June of 1991 and is 464 pages in length. I probably read it to them either in 1992 or 93 which would have made Tony 7 or 8 years old and Chip 6 or 7.
I asked them recently if they remembered me reading the book and what they recalled. Tony said he remembered and that he “really liked it”. He said, “I remember sitting in the living room of the beach house having you read it to us for hours”. Chip said, “Yeah I remember it. They traveled into a parallel universe, right? And things got crazy…” Pretty good for right off the top of their heads!
From the dreamy spires of Oxford, Lewis Gillies drives north dragged there by his roommate Simon to seek a mythical creature in a misty glen in Scotland. Expecting little more than a weekend diversion, Lewis is shocked when Simon disappears into a cairn they were investigating. He soon finds himself transported to a mystical place where two worlds meet, in what the Celts call the time-between-times and into the heart of a battle between good and evil.
“The ancient Celts admitted no separation between this world and the Otherworld: the two were delicately interwoven, each dependent on the other. “The Paradise War” crosses the thin places between this world and that, as Lewis Gillies comes face-to-face with an ancient mystery–and a cosmic catastrophe in the making,” one reviewer writes.
Lawhead is best when he writes in the first person. “The Paradise War” has us viewing both worlds through the eyes of young Lewis. The Otherworld is overwhelming to sight and senses and Lewis shares his amazement with us in detail. As he searches for Simon he finds himself being drawn into this world more and more. We soon realize that he is brought into this world to be a significant participant and not just a casual explorer. As opposed to Narnia’s invading children turned kings and queens, Lewis comes in as a nobody who not only must join into the Celtic life of this ancient world but must fight to even survive. He will return a time or two to our world to share his experience only to be pulled back in.
In this book, the first of the trilogy we experience Lewis’ transformation from young American in Oxford to Lew, the mighty warrior. The intensity and frustration and awe are experienced first hand. We see through his eyes. Lawhead handles this perspective with skill and excellence… one does not want to put the book down. We sense his transformation is for a purpose and there will be a test at the end. A grand battle climaxes “The Paradise War” as Lew struggles against time to release the mythical, magically powerful Song of Albion.
At the end of this book you will celebrate the grand victory… you will be satisfied yet you will be hungry for more… We all cried, “Where is the second book?” after finishing “The Paradise War.” Back then we had to wait up to a year. You however have no such problem. You can go right to the next book “The Silver Hand”. The second book does not disappoint and carries on the excitement. However be advised the 2nd book changes, we are no longer looking from the perspective of Lew. Another character will lead the way through this book.
The grand finale is found in “The Endless Knot”. The final book is a tougher read. We must detour through a land as desolate as Dante’s inferno. Through death, destruction and devastating circumstances Lew must battle. He must overcome the darkness itself to rescue his true love.
Throughout the books Lawhead weaves Celtic myth, prophecy and symbolism, all in the context of a monotheistic faith. In Lew’s character we are shown salvific love and strength and purpose. Finally good and evil are clearly defined. Lawhead has us rejoicing in what is good and right! He does not disappoint.
Having read this book out loud to Tony and Chip I was thrilled to find that audible.com offered “The Paradise War” in unabridged audio book. As a Gold Member I had a couple of credits in hand and quickly used one to purchase a copy. Can’t wait to download it to my Kindle Fire. Going to be fun to have someone read it to me!