Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars End of the Celtic Quest for Relics, 3 Dec 2008
This review is from: The Mystic Rose: Bk. 3 (Celtic Crusades S) (Paperback)
The Mystic Rose concludes the Celtic Crusades trilogy of Stephen Lawhead and ends the series of on strong note after the dullness that was The Black Rood. Crusades is perhaps the wrong word for the series, though; each of the three books instead deal with a quest for the holiest items of Christendom.

Again, we follow our Celtic protagonist (a heroine this time) on a quest for holy relics - this time the holy grail. Catriona is a stronger protagonist than her father Duncan from book 2, and unlike the previous volume, there is plenty of suspense and excitement in the story. Partly this is because Lawhead has abandoned the "diary" format of the Black Rood for a much better format, partly because the characters in this book are far more interesting, and partly because the plot itself is simply much better.

The book is not without its flaws, however. The characters are not always well realized; a problem that is particularly pronounced for the main protagonist. The writer obviously wants the reader to think and feel in certain directions, and thus lets Catriona "comment" on the behavior of her surroundings. Unfortunately, this comes off as very stupid and silly when the comments are related to actions of her sister which should hardly come as a surprise unless they are strangers who have just met (they're not). Similarly, Catriona in one moment comments on the uselessness of one of her companions, only to - a few sentences on - turn for advice to the self-same person. Errors like these make the characterization fall flat and have been a problem in every book of the series.

The early 20th century story-line which Lawhead has woven into these three volumes also come to a conclusion in this book. It was particularly irritating in the second book (due to being unfinished), and the conclusion in this story is both predictable and unsatisfying - especially when one considers the setup hinted at in the previous novels. This is unfortunate, because Gordon Murray's story is an irritating and dull addendum to the much better story of Catriona.

My rating for this book is 3 1/2 stars, but I decided to round up (rather than down), for three reasons.
- The main story itself is an excellent yarn; good light reading if you like historical fiction.
- Despite being part of a series, you don't need to read the previous volumes in the series to enjoy this one. That's an excellent thing, because it means you can ignore the very tepid fare of the preceding volume, if you wish.
- It's clearly the best of the series. Since I rate The Iron Lance (Celtic Crusades S) BOOK1 as 3 stars and The Black Rood as 2 stars, 4 stars seems appropriate for The Mystic Rose.
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