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The Ash Spear Paperback – 12 Nov 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher:; First Printing edition (12 Nov. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0557060702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0557060702
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.1 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,029,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sir Furboy on 1 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a series that has grown on me as I have read it. From the start it has been well researched and well written, with a wonderful sense of place in the narrative that sweeps the reader back in time to sixth century Wales. Maybe not quite as it actually was, because who can say how it was? but as good a re-creation of that historical setting as any I have read.

The series follows Gwernin, a young storyteller in the generation after Arthur as he travels across the land, much of the time with Taliesin the bard. In this book the story becomes an adventure filled with dispute and rivalries and many a self contained short tale. It culminates in a thrilling adventure, through which the young storyteller comes of age. Whether that is the end of his tale is not clear, but it wraps things up in a satisfying manner for this book at least.

The research is as good as the story here. We are treated to snippets from early medieval writings, and allusions to others. The Gododdin feature in this story, and there are also allusions to Anglo Saxon literary tradition and just a snippet of Old English. All this adds wonderfully to that sense of place I mentioned.

The author's historical note makes clear on one area where the story departs deliberately from the more commonly accepted view of the 6th Century bardic tradition - but again, as the notes say, the literary tradition is nevertheless not always supported by the archeological evidence. They don't call this the dark ages for nothing! So for the purposes of a good work of fiction, no one would quibble with the digression I think.

So this book was an enjoyable read. It may be hard going for anyone unfamiliar with Welsh names and pronounciation, but that all adds to the flavour of the book. Anyone enjoying historical novels or celtic themes should enjoy this variation on the coming of age theme.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jacqueline Unitt on 10 July 2009
Format: Paperback
This is not a book I would normally have chosen, and at the beginning I worried about the very Welshness of it, the names in particular. I need not have worried. Once I had got used to the names, and seperated Talhaearn from Taliesin, the story took over. It is the story of a trainee Bard in 6th century Wales, soon after the Romans had left, and reminded me stronly of Homer. The storyteller moving from court to court telling stories of the heroes in battle, and singing songs. It is the third part of a series, but stands well on it's own. I haven't read the earlier ones, and had no problem following it. There is some element of the mystical, which would have put me off, but it is extremely well done. The only slight criticism I would have, and it is minor, is the time scale. The whole story takes place in less than the nine months necessary for a pregnancy, but the feeling is much longer.
It took me until the end to realise just what is meant by an ash spear! I leave that to the reader!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Exceeding Expectations 9 July 2009
By Andrew Kennett - Published on
Format: Paperback
It seems a rare thing when not only the writing but the story itself stays on the same high level through a series of books, and rarer still when the story continues to get better. I would place The Ash Spear, and the Storyteller series as a whole, in that most rare category (and that certainly is not a slight on the earlier entries in the series, these tales are just that good).

Once again we follow Gwernin Storyteller on his quest to learn the trade and lore of the bard, and once again Grove crafts a rich portrayal of the lands, people, and culture of 6th century Britain. As she did in adding a bit more action in Flight of the Hawk, Grove adds another element to the story, balancing the inclusion of a larger sense of the more spiritual or supernatural elements of British lore with the flow of characters, culture, and action already attained in the series. Also, to this reader at least, the wonderful flashes of humor used throughout the series really hit at the right moments in this book, both cutting and creating tension in the tale even more so than in the previous volumes.

Overall, I think this is the best of the three Storyteller books.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Three time's the charm 10 July 2009
By Jennie M. Mizrahi - Published on
Format: Paperback
Ms.Grove has truly refined her voice in this latest installment of the "Storyteller" series. Though this is perhaps the most magical of the trilogy, it is also the most human, with all of the messy consequences that come from human interaction and imperfection. Heroic Kings are not always wise, and foolish boys find that they are not always shielded from their own mistakes. This darker tale, far more epic in scope than either earlier book, grabs the reader by the navel and pulls one along down unexpected roads, leaving one with no desire to follow the narrator's admonition that the next chapter, "O my children, is a story for another day."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"Dark ages" brought to life. 14 Sept. 2009
By M. Ho - Published on
Format: Paperback
This was a fantastic read that I couldn't put down! I love the way G. R. Grove illuminates the so-called "dark ages" of Britain in such a refreshingly believable, down-to-earth manner. Her writing style is concise and unpretentious, and she really gets into the skin of her characters, showing us every aspect of their daily lives, from their mundane chores to their troubled politics, and their mysterious spirituality.

The Ash Spear builds on Gwernin's adventures in the previous two books, Storyteller, and Flight of the Hawk, deepening further his relationships with Talhaearn, Taliesin, Neirin and Rhianedd. In the beginning of this book, Gwernin is asked to accompany master bards Taliesin, Talhaearn, and Ugnach to help his friend Neirin, walk "the Dark Path" a Druidic spiritual rite of passage. Neirin's spiritual ordeal seems to be mirrored in Gwernin's later adventures, though Gwernin's ordeals have the added dimension of harsh reality.

Gwernin has a knack for getting himself into trouble, mainly because of his straightforward nature, and in this book he gets into the worst scrapes of his life so far. What with British kings antagonizing each other for more land and power, and Saxons, who tend to enslave any Britons who get in their way, Gwernin, caught up in the middle of it all, has a very exciting year. He learns much from his experiences, especially about what is really important in life, and in the end makes a surprising decision that shows how much he has grown up in his most difficult year.

The Ash Spear is full of exciting adventure and with every chapter I wanted to find out what happened next, so, unfortunately, I finished it too fast. I'm very much looking forward to reading more about Gwernin and his adventures in the next book.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
One of the best I've read in a while 13 July 2009
By Elena - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Ash Spear is the third book in the series, which starts with Storyteller and is followed by Flight of the Hawk. As such, the reader is thrown right into the action, with little introduction to the characters or the world. I haven't read either of the two previous books and didn't find this to be too much of a problem. The story stands alone, more or less, although there were plenty of references to past actions and events. Despite that, I really have to find the first two books and read them eventually.

G. R. Grove has set this series in the generation or so just after the time of King Arthur, and located it mostly in the Welsh and northern regions of the British Isles. However, from there the story is quite different from most of the Arthurian period stories I've read, which made for a refreshing change: Gwernin, who is both the main character and the viewpoint character is no warrior or leader, but instead is an apprentice bard with a healthy appreciation for the mystical (not to mention the practical).

Also, there is much more of a pagan presence throughout The Ash Spear than I've seen in some of the other stories of the period. However, it works, and I think, that fact is probably fairly historically accurate too, although I'm no expert on the period. Again, it is a refreshing change.

Oftentimes, the names in the story are a bit of a mouthful, and I don't think that a pronunciation guide/glossary for some of the terms used throughout the story would have gone amiss, but it's quite possible to get the gist of them from the context. Perhaps they were explained more fully in the earlier volumes?

At the same time, I found the language and phrasing used helped to set the stage for the period. Sometimes it's more archaic words, other times it's a phrasing where the words are somewhat out of order to the modern ear. G. R. Grove has also included several long selections of poetry, which makes sense, given that the main character is training to be a bard. There's even a section from Beowulf included later on in the book, although it's more scattered lines than an actual excerpt.

Gwernin (as the entire story is set from his viewpoint as he reminisces) is very descriptive about events and scenery during his reminiscing of the story, which all helps to set the stage. It's the details he remembered and added that really allowed me to be able to almost visualize the events and the scenery.

The one thing I found slightly annoying through the story was the repeated formula of "But that, O my children, is a story for another day." It's used to close off just about every chapter in the book, and I think also in other places as well. It's a minor point overall though.

As I said earlier, I really have to recommend this book, and I'm going to go hunting for the first two in the series.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful story in a great series 26 April 2010
By Andrea Love - Published on
Format: Paperback
Another excellent offering from GR Grove in the Storyteller Series. In the third book, we follow Gwernin as he partially attains his dream of travelling with Taliesin during the summer season. He has left his old master behind, as well as his pregnant love, for the pursuit of knowledge and adventure. As his predecessor and friend Neirin becomes a full bard and walks the Dark Path of the spirit realm, Gwernin must deal with his own adversity in the form of the spoiled son of an associate of Talhaearn and Taliesin. The conflict between the two eventually crests as Gwernin is captured while trying to protect the boy and jeopardizing all of his dreams and promises as well as nearly losing his life.

My favorite part of this series is the format in which the author has chosen to present the story. Each of the chapters can stand on it's own as a complete tale, while at the same time being only a step in the larger story. As an unique and I'm sure at times difficult time period to write about, Grove has masterfully created a relatable world in 6th century Wales and characters who are endearing. I'm very pleased to learn that there will be a fourth entry in the Storyteller Series, and look forward to its release.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the LibraryThing book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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