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The White Raven

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  871 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
This haunting retelling of the tale of Tristan and Iseult (here called Drustan and Esseilte in accordance with Celtic legend and language) goes back to early versions, before Mallory and Wagner, to explore the nature of love, duty and loyalty. The story is told by Branwen, cousin and companion to Esseilte, daughter of the High King of Eriu (Ireland).

The two young women sa
Paperback, 480 pages
Published August 1st 1989 by Avon Books (Mm) (first published 1988)
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Castle Dor by Daphne du MaurierTwilight of Avalon by Anna ElliottThe Maid of the White Hands by Rosalind MilesThe White Raven by Diana L. PaxsonThe Lady of the Sea by Rosalind Miles
Tristan & Isolde Retellings
4th out of 38 books — 15 voters
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienA Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinThe Name of the Wind by Patrick RothfussThe Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienThe Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Favorites of the Fantasy Book Club
229th out of 602 books — 1,251 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,179)
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Apr 07, 2014 Lara rated it really liked it
Does anyone else feel that Tristan and Isolde were the two most selfish people on the planet? So they drink a love potion--you'd think that two reasonably intelligent people could grit their teeth, say "You know, I hated you five minutes ago, and now you're the moon in my sky--something's gone wrong here." But nooooo, they proceed to destroy a kingdom, cuckold a King who'd done nothing to either of them, and lie to *everyone* just so they can carry on their torrid affair that ends in tragedy.

Jun 17, 2009 Celeste rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: fantasy
I was really enjoying this book until about page 280 or so when the author suddenly felt it necessary to include a "rape her till she likes it" scene.
Oct 10, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it
I loved this book in high school when I first read it. Nearly 20 years later, I picked it up again to see if I still do. I do.
The beginning has some standard set-the-stage scenes that felt "blah blah get on with it," but the story builds from there. Paxon's descriptions of setting are beautiful ( and relevant to the setting/stage/time period) and her characters are very interesting explorations of legendary figures. Sometimes I get tired of the main character's doubts and reflections, but that'
Jun 02, 2010 kari rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Insomniacs, it will work wonderfully
Recommended to kari by: No one, I stupidly chose it myself
Shelves: 2010
The unique talent of an author to take one of the most romantic, heartbreaking legends of all time and make it completely boring is something I’ve thankfully, rarely experienced and hope never to do again. This book just plods along. I kept thinking, I’ll read just one more chapter, maybe it will get better. And by the time I realized it was never going to get better, I was halfway through and decided I might as well push myself and finish it. The last thirty pages make it a two star r
Jun 21, 2010 Bronwyn rated it really liked it
4.5 stars out of 5.

I thought that this story was very lovely. 'The White Raven' tells the tale of Drustan and Esseilte (Tristan and Isolde)from the point-of-view of Esseilte's cousin and personal servant, Branwen. While we are all familiar with the tragic fate of the star-crossed lovers, Paxson introduces the idea that it would take a devoted and loving third party to keep the machinations of such a forbidden love from unraveling. This story is told with her voice.

Lushly written with haunting, s
Sep 12, 2011 Robin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who loves a good tale of strife, growth and love.
This is a beautiful mix between historical romance and the fantasy of myth. It is a grand story that's been told impeccably well. I'm glad I picked this up when I randomly found it. It is a most enjoyable addition to my collection.
Apr 26, 2014 Sue rated it liked it
A very intriguing but, ultimately just adequate, take on the story of Tristan and Isolde. From the git go I was eager to see this tale through the eyes of a character who is always included in any incarnation of this legend, but who we rarely get to spend any time with. Here, Branwen in her own right is powerful and independent but is chained to a love of a different sort. I was also grateful to spend as much time away from both Drustan and Esseilte as possible, because here they were as obnoxio ...more
Angela "Dharma"
Sep 09, 2009 Angela "Dharma" rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical, fantasy, love
This is one of my all-time favorites! Wonderfully gripping story - the only book that ever twisted my heart to the point of weeping.
Doris Pearson
Aug 01, 2013 Doris Pearson rated it it was amazing
First few pages didn't get me but then it got exciting and couldn't set it down.. fascinating story
Mar 02, 2011 SANDRA rated it it was amazing
Mar 06, 2012 Rusty rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, romance
This is a romantic retelling the beautiful story of Tristan and Iseult. I cried as I read the last few pages. It's enchanting. The author explains that Drustan and Marc'h lived as believed. It appears that Drustan could have been Marc'h's son and the author explains how this may be so. Discovering a faint carving that was later addded to the Drustanius gravestone indicates that Eisseilt may well have existed as well. And, because of the rules governing royal behavior at the time, Paxton explains ...more
Jul 28, 2016 Ron rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arthuriana
Long-winded, rambling and sappy with an overly moralising tenor. Paxson transforms one of the central stories of European literary tradition into a torrid teenage romance with paranormal accent, a Young Adult story rather than a serious attempt to create a modern take on the legend of Tristan and Iseult.
Raven Oak
Aug 14, 2014 Raven Oak rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of Celtic fantasy
As a hormonal teenager, reading about the love triangle of Drustan & Esseilte and Marc’h, King of Kernow (Cornwall) meant something I could identify with as a young teen in love. I loved the novel—the characters, the plot, everything. Drustan was awesome and all, but I found King Marc’h to be the better character. He held a strength and a passion not driven by a love potion. Instead of lust, he was love.
As an adult, I can better appreciate Paxson's word choice and the cadence of her language
Mar 15, 2014 Hafiza rated it liked it
Read as ebook from Open Library
Long winded but well written.
Branwen was too self sacrificing and weak for most of the book, but I had to keep reading to see if she got her HEA
Rena Sherwood
Oct 10, 2014 Rena Sherwood rated it did not like it
Shelves: the-crap-shelf
Oh, please. Has dialogue like "I need to feel his manhood throbbing between my legs." Silly take on a legend.
Jun 28, 2008 Debbie rated it really liked it
This book offers a very interesting view of the tragic romance of Tristan and Iseult(here called Drustan and Esseilte). It is told through the eyes of Branwen, Esseilte's cousin, who aids Esseilte and Drustan in their affair. At the same time Branwen falls in love with King Marc'h, Esseilte's scorned husband. It is a tragic tale told from an interesting perspective and even though you know how it ends, you still keep reading to see what happens next.
Nov 09, 2008 Jackie rated it really liked it
A retelling of Tristan and Isolde. My favorite version of this tale by far.
A great read; I felt I was there, not part of the story but watching from a bird's eye vantage. Another book I gave away and wish I didn't. I'd like to read it again sometime.
Apr 05, 2013 Andria rated it it was ok
It wasn't my most favorite book ever. The plot was okay, and the story wasn't as bad as it couldn't been, but I wasn't that impressed with it.

Still, it was an okay story, which was why I gave it a two star review.
Michael D.
Aug 25, 2016 Michael D. rated it really liked it
This was a very compelling story. I read it over 20 years ago. It was based on the older Tristan and Isolde tale, and the love potion was presented as an instrument of revenge. Great read.
Oct 28, 2008 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Shelves: retellings
Read this long long ago. When i took Arthurian Legengs at LSU we read Tristan and Isolde and i just kept thinking, "Hey i already read this!"
Aug 02, 2011 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
one of my all time favorites, i've owned this forever and refuse to let go of it! great celtic storyline! tristan and isolde!!!!
Oct 12, 2008 Karen rated it it was amazing
One of my all-time favorites. But, the tragic aspect makes me read it less than others of my favorites.
Apr 09, 2012 Sara rated it it was ok
An exhaustingly historic and emotional retelling of Trystan and Isolde.
Nov 09, 2008 Valerie rated it really liked it
I loved this book when I first read it. I wonder how I'd like it now.
Oct 12, 2010 Susan rated it really liked it
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Diana L. Paxson (born 1943) is a novelist and author of nonfiction, primarily in the fields of Paganism and Heathenism. Her published works include fantasy and historical fiction novels, as well as numerous short stories. More recently she has also published nonfiction books about Pagan and Heathen religions and practices.

In addition to her multiple novels and collaborations, she has written over
More about Diana L. Paxson...

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