Nov 28, 07
mature fans of historical fiction
Read in November, 2007
Lawhead is one of my favorite authors, and he followed through well on this book. This was my second time reading it.
Stephen Lawhead is an expert in Celtic history and mythology, and most of his stories are set in ancient Britain and/or Ireland. He retells Celtic legends as historical novels (rather than as fantastic legends) which fascinates me.
This novel tells the story of the famous St. Patrick, although the story is much different than the one I usually hear about Patrick. I'm most familiar with the legend of the great saint who saved Ireland by combating the druids and standing for the truth of Christianity. My wife and I sing the hymn attributed to St. Patrick every year on St. Patrick's Day (called "St. Patrick's Breastplate" or more commonly known as "I Bind Unto Myself Today.").
However, Lawhead's version of Patrick is of a man who goes through a crisis of faith (as most of his protagonists do). Lawhead is quite gifted at painting a picture of real life struggles, and the issues that come along with them. Through the course of this novel, Patrick must be broken of his trust in himself. In the end, he must look upon the work of his hands and see how worthless it is. This sets him free from his slavery to wealth, power, and fame. It is convicting to see that God must break us of ourselves before he can truly use us.
I must give a warning, though. Patrick's "Christianity" is not a true Christianity. I am familiar with the legend of St. Patrick resisting the druids, yet Lawhead's Patrick ends up synthesizing Christianity with Druidism (rather than fighting the druids, he joins them). In this novel, Christian priests are fat, lazy, selfish sons of guns, and the druids are noble, intelligent, and loving to all men. The one exception to the former category is the monk Pelagius. Historically, Pelagius was an arch-heretic of the church, teaching that men could be good enough to be accepted by God without needing Christ's atoning sacrifice. In Lawhead's novel, Pelagius is the only "Christian" who actually cares about someone other than himself. Thus he has a great influence on Patrick.
So, while I cannot recommend Lawhead's theology, I would still highly recommend his novels as excellent stories of human life. This is one of his best.