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.