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White Ravens (New Tales from the Mabinogion #1)

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  114 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Drawing from two medieval Welsh manuscripts with roots dating back many centuries earlier, this series of 11 stories sheds light on Celtic mythology and Arthurian romance while providing a new perspective on Great Britain itself. From enchantment and shapeshifting to the age-old dichotomies of conflict versus peacemaking and love versus betrayal, all of these tales are uni ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 1st 2010 by Seren (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Nikki
Oct 29, 2012 Nikki rated it really liked it
Seren's series of retold stories from the Mabinogion is a fascinating endeavour, and even though I didn't really feel very enthusiastic about the first one, I was ready to try this one. I'm glad I did, because I enjoyed the way Sheers picked out the themes of the original story that resonated with him and made a companion story, an echo, that evokes them for his readers.

White Ravens is well written and easy to read, and it could only be more Welsh if someone promised to do something now in a min
...more
Jane
Dec 04, 2010 Jane rated it really liked it
I was very taken with the first of a series of short works published by Seren Books, retelling the stories of The Mabinogion for twenty-first century ears. And so I tracked down this, the second.

A short work yes, but there is much going on. Stories wrapped about stories, stories wrapped around stories, rich with themes and ideas. And at the centre is a striking modern take on the original story.

But let’s start at the beginning:

“Let me tell you something. If you wanted to curse someone, I don’t k
...more
Lee Razer
Nov 05, 2014 Lee Razer rated it liked it
Shelves: british
An acceptable re-imagining of a medieval Welsh myth, the Second Branch of the Mabinogion, in which the Welsh princess Branwen is given to the Irish king Matholwch, whose mistreatment of her results in a war leaving only seven men alive to repopulate Ireland. This version, in which an old man in the present day tells a story from WWII to a young woman, putting me in mind of The Princess Bride, leaves out the genocide and royalty but translates the rest pretty effectively. Unfortunately the first ...more
latner3
Sep 12, 2015 latner3 rated it liked it

A re-interpretation of the Second Branch myth from the Mabinogion.A story of love and violence and the way passion connects them.Captivating wonderful storytelling.
'Llawn yw'r coed o ddail a blode,/Llawn iawn o gariad ydwf inne.'

Miriam
Jan 30, 2010 Miriam marked it as to-read
Recommended to Miriam by: FT
Shelves: arthurian, mythology
I'll have to reread the Mabinogion first, as I can only recall the few most well-known tales.
Lyle
Jan 04, 2015 Lyle rated it liked it
I should probably say right up front that I wrote a dissertation on the Mabinogion last year (although on the Fourth Branch, rather than the Second), and therefore have Strong Opinions on it. That should probably be a standard disclaimer on most medieval-based stuff I review, to be honest. Branwen has never been my favourite Branch - I like Pwyll for having vaguely non-horrible characters, and Math for having a set of entirely amoral bastards for protagonists, but with Branwen, the poor girl jus ...more
Andrew
Jun 20, 2015 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Owen Sheers is one of those writers you probably haven’t read, but definitely should. He’s the author of dozens of novels, works of poetry and plays – and he’s only just turned 40. This was my first taste of his writing.

‘White Ravens’ is part of a series of re-workings of the Welsh medieval epic, the Mabinogion, commissioned by publisher Seren (Sheers is Welsh). One of the persistent themes in his work is the effect of violence on the human psyche - he’s worked extensively with soldiers returned
...more
Lynne
Nov 27, 2015 Lynne rated it liked it
Modern re-working of the Second Branch of the Mabinogion tale of Branwen and Bendigeidfran set in two different times but linked by the main narrative. Sheers' story opens with Rhian, a disenchanted young woman trapped with her two brothers on a remote Welsh farm. Following the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001, the brothers turn to sheep stealing and persuade their sister to drive their illicit cargo to London. Sickened by the sight of the debris left from the illegal butchering, Rhian takes refu ...more
Daniel Clark
Feb 21, 2015 Daniel Clark rated it liked it
I loved the concept behind this book, which is taking tales from Welsh mythology and turning them into modern fables. The technique behind this becomes clear at the end of the book, when the underlying tale is summarised. The idea is well executed, with the concepts being brought cleverly up to date. The author is a poet by trade and you can tell, as you can hear the poetic Welsh lilt in the writing. The book is a short, easy read because it is written so sparely. No words are superfluous or was ...more
Amanda
Aug 06, 2012 Amanda rated it liked it
This novel started off very promising. Sheers' writing style is very readable and the book was nicely designed. Yet once one of the main characters meets his love interest, I immediately lost a lot of interest. The characters take on stock personalities and motivations beyond that point, and he does an especially terrible job of writing a female character who in all rights should be a complex and fascinating person. I realize that this is a retelling of a 13th century myth (which, to be fair, I ...more
Bill Tillman
Apr 21, 2010 Bill Tillman rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves fantasy and folklore.
Still reading, first impression. A Wizard of Wales, a story teller with a subtle pen for a wand. Owen Sheers has a rare talent. Like a Florida gator is both ancient and today. On page 66 this Welsh gator closed his jaws on my leg, it wasn't painful it was delightful. Seren commissioned eleven Welsh writers to do some retelling of the national treasure 'The Mabinogion'. Theme keep these old tales at the heart of a new story.

I know I'm bait by page 73 where Sheers throws a splendid Welsh bomb at m
...more
Snoakes
Sep 15, 2016 Snoakes rated it it was amazing
I love Owen Sheers writing. This re-imagining of the Mabinogion is a real gem, and his afterword puts the whole thing into context and makes it doubly fascinating.

It shines the spotlight on the nature of story-telling; why we tell stories and why the old myths and legends are so enduring. Bringing the story of Branwen up-to-date without slavishly sticking to the original he highlights universal themes - how violence perpetuates violence and how we punish those we love when things go bad for us.

B
...more
Lacivetta
Jan 31, 2014 Lacivetta rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic-fic
A very fine reworking of the Children of Llyr. Sheer's prose is rare in that it's lyrical without its lyricism calling attention to itself. Moving the action to WWII also worked well.

I wasn't as keen on the frame story - it seemed to provide a happy ending that wasn't really necessary, as at its heart the novel holds the premise that stories repeat themselves as they continue to be needed. The frame story seemed to tie off the ends - which doesn't make sense in this context - it cuts off the rea
...more
Angharad Wynne
May 18, 2012 Angharad Wynne rated it liked it
Sheer's brings his poetic eye to this difficult challenge of re-setting the Second Branch of The Mabinogion - probably the most bloody and violent of all the Mabinogion stories. He gives it a modern but lyrical location which allows for the tragedy without sensationalising it. He weaves a clever and well crafted story, but somehow the end resolves too quickly, as though hurried and it all becomes a bit obvious. Worth reading though.
Beni Morse
Nov 08, 2010 Beni Morse rated it it was amazing
WHITE RAVENS is a contemporary take on the myth of 'Branwen Daughter of Llyr' one of the stories from the Welsh folk collection 'the Mabinogion'
The story is written with poetic economy and the 21st century setting really works. It is both a gripping story and a timely fable about male self-destructiveness and the effects of war on those who return home
Paul
Aug 11, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it
From a series where modern authors/ poets re-tell ancient Welsh tales from the Mabinogoin. To somebody like me who didn't know any of these tales this short book holds together well, is tense, whilst maybe petering out a bit at the end. Then you have the extra layer of finding out the original stories and seeing how the author has used this to weave a new version.
David Grieve
Sep 29, 2013 David Grieve rated it really liked it
A modern retelling of the second branch of the Mabinogion - Branwen, Daughter of Llyr.

Very well written and gripping throughout. A very enjoyable and moving retelling of the story. By definition, few surprises but thoroughly engrossing nonetheless.
Tove
Aug 03, 2014 Tove rated it liked it
This is the second book in the Mabinogion series that I've read. It felt a bit rushed, but that could be the format and "limitations" of the series. I do like Sheer's writing style and language, especially the occasional Cymraeg. But so far 'The Meat Tree' is by far much better.
Elin
Jul 12, 2010 Elin rated it really liked it
This is a reworking of the tale of Bran and Branwen from the Mabinogion but you need have no knowledge of the original story to enjoy this one. Well thought out and with a strong cast of characters, it is a short but satisfying read.
Gemma Williams
Apr 02, 2012 Gemma Williams rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own
The second book of the modern interpretations of the mabinogion that I've read. I really enjoyed it, I didn't know the original story that inspired this but I'm very keen to read it. I also can't wait to read the other books in this series.
Daniel
May 19, 2010 Daniel rated it it was amazing
bendigedig, fantastic
ELIZABETH H DAVIES
I enjoyed, may inspire folk to get to know the tales of the Mabinogion.
Gareth
Oct 25, 2010 Gareth rated it it was amazing
Magnificent, magical.
Mary
Oct 13, 2010 Mary rated it really liked it
Re-imagining of old Welsh folktale from the Mabinogion. Two stories worked together, one in present day, one set during WW2. A love story and an exploration of the effects of war and violence.
Adele.williamson
Adele.williamson rated it liked it
Nov 30, 2012
Sheena
Sheena rated it really liked it
Jan 04, 2013
Jo
Jo rated it really liked it
Aug 21, 2014
Agnes Marton
Agnes Marton rated it liked it
Feb 15, 2016
Janet Gilio
Janet Gilio rated it really liked it
Mar 19, 2016
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OWEN SHEERS is a poet, author and playwright. His first novel, Resistance, was translated into ten languages and adapted into a film. The Dust Diaries, his Zimbabwean nonfiction narrative, won the Wales Book of the Year Award. His awards for poetry and drama include the Somerset Maugham Award for Skirrid Hill, the Hay Festival Medal for Poetry and Wales Book of the Year Award for Pink Mist, and th ...more
More about Owen Sheers...

Other Books in the Series

New Tales from the Mabinogion (8 books)
  • The Ninth Wave
  • The Meat Tree
  • The Dreams of Max and Ronnie
  • The White Trail
  • The Prince's Pen
  • See How They Run (New Stories from the Mabinogion)
  • Bird, Blood, Snow

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