on 17 June 2009
The book is self published, and before reading this book I would say that invariably indicates a book that suffers from a lack of editing, rewriting and critical review. Indeed I normally avoid self published works because there is usually a good reason that they were rejected by publishers.
But the reviews on this book suggested the writing was of high quality - and they were right. The author writes well, with a passion for her subject - 6th Century Welsh Culture - which she has researched well (not perfectly mind. Like Stephen Lawhead et al., she calls Cardiff "Caer Dydd" - a folk etymology that does not realise that the city is named for the river Taff, and in the 6th century was Caerdyf - incorporating the genitive form of Taff as the case system was still found in Welsh at that time. She also speaks of Aberystwyth, where the 6th century settlement of the area would have focussed around Llanbadarn Fawr. I could go on and be picky, but that would be unfair as her research is at least as good as other writers setting tales in this period, and in fact better than most).
Heavy use is made of early Welsh writings in this book, and the author clearly has a feel for the period - presenting a tale that would not be amiss as an addendum to the Mabinogion.
My only real criticism of the work would revolve over the overall lack of tension. Not that it is entirely lacking - there are times when this book is as well written as any I have read - but it does not grab you from the start as a tale with some kind of conflict in it that must be resolved. This might be what an editor at a publishing house might have brought to the work. Then again, maybe not. It could just be my own preference here as there is plenty to interest a reader in this story.
on 24 May 2009
The 'Storyteller' of the title is Gwernin, who in each chapter of the book relates a story from when he was a young bard in training, travelling across medieval Wales. Some of his stories are very personal, although even in these he encounters characters from myth such as Taliesien, whilst others are more traditional as he relates stories of legendary heroes. Each chapter of the book contains just one of his tales, so that chapter by chapter we learn more about the young bard and his various companions during his journey. Grove uses the conventions of the oral tradition to good advantage so that the reader is easily able to evoke an image of the older Gwernin sitting by the fire surrounded by his audience, groaning as his tale comes to an end and applauding as he promises them more, "But that, O my children, is a story for another day."
This is an engaging read which, although clearly well-researched, doesn't patronise the reader with its depiction of life in the Dark Ages and so is accessible to all. Grove has written two further books about Gwernin which I look forward to reading.
on 12 June 2007
The adventures of a wandering storyteller and would-be bard in the chaos and contradictions of 6th century Britain. . .
What is - or was - a bard, in Dark Ages Britain? What did the people of that time and place mean when they said that? "Bard" is one of those archetypal words which are nowadays often misused - but not in this case.
Meticulously researched, engagingly written, the book does not fit easily into a usual category. There is adventure - but it is not only an adventure story. The protagonist is young - but the book is by no means intended for a juvenile audience.
Like the late, great Rosemary Sutcliff, G.R. Grove has the knack of dropping the reader into the location and time - sight and scent, sound and sense - and making the reader aware of the concerns of a person of that era, rather than merely those of a modern individual in different clothing. I think that most folk interested in Dark Ages British cultures would enjoy this book.
Some things, however, are fairly universal: wariness of the enemy in the night, seeking for deserved esteem from those one admires, the ability to make a total fool of oneself and to recover from it - all these are familiar to intelligent humans in any century.
I said above that most folk interested in Dark Ages cultures would enjoy this - ? True, but so would folk who simply like a good tale - or series of them - set in a world that's almost far enough away to be fantasy, but as real and immediate as our own.
So why is this book called "Storyteller" and not "Bard?" Ah, I will let Gwernin tell you that for himself.
on 18 July 2014
I originally received a copy of this from the LibraryThing Member Giveaways, but I went on to buy this copy as a gift. It's a series of interlinked stories set in post-Roman pre-Arthurian Britain. It deftly weaves mythology and history together, using it's protagonist's journey towards a career as a bard to structure the novel. Strongly recommend it!