Veteran historical author Morgan Llywelyn retells the colorful life story of revered Irish monastic saint Brendan the Navigator in the form of a personal journal, written by an elderly Brendan, interspersed with third-person glimpses of the Great Voyage he undertook with 14 monks to find the fabled earthly paradise of the Western Sea, the Isles of Blest.
A contemporary of Saint Patrick, Brendan is brought up by Erc, Bishop of Altraighe-Caille, and early on shows an affinity for seafaring. Restless, headstrong, and curious, the monk Brendan embarked on dangerous peregrinations, first by land and then by sea, traveling with his pet raven PrÈach·n to establish monasteries throughout Ireland.
Llywelyn's narrative, laced with fifth-century Irish history and lore, climaxes with a fantastical maritime expedition worthy of Ulysses; her prose is by turns reflective, lyrical, and stalwart, delving into the popular legend with a genuine sense of Brendan's human strengths and frailties.
Brendan the Navigator is one of Ireland's many early saints who straddled the pagan-Christian divide, continuing what would today be called an environmental consciousness as the Irish Celts moved their culture into Christianity. He gained his moniker from a long sea journey with other monks that may have brought them to America.
Llywelyn brings to life the complex tribal Celtic society in which Brendan lived and creates some memorable characters especially the saint's foster-mother, Ita from what little is known of the real Brendan's life. Readable and very well researched, the novel will please fans of Ireland's best-known historical novelist and may introduce her to readers who enjoy learning about early Christianity through fiction.
New York-born author Morgan Llywelyn is one of the world's leading popular chroniclers of Celtic culture and history. A prolific storyteller, she has written more than twenty books over the past two decades. Her fiction has received several awards and has sold more than 40 million copies, and she herself is recipient of the 1999 Exceptional Celtic Woman of the Year Award from Celtic Women International.
In the words of Judith A. Gifford of the reference publication Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, "Drawing on the history and lore that are part of her own heritage, the works of Morgan Llywelyn concern themselves with Celtic heroes and heroines, both real and mythical, bringing them and the times they inhabited to life with stunning clarity." Pauline Morgan, writing in the St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, has explained, "[t]he majority of Morgan Llywelyn's books may be regarded as fictional biographies. Each book takes a person, often historical or legendary, and relates the story of their life. Most of the novels with a fantasy connection rely heavily on Celtic mythology, particularly that of the Irish.
Morgan Llywelyn now lives outside of Dublin, Ireland, and has become an Irish citizen.