I read The White Raven by Diana L. Paxson in 8th grade, with no knowledge that it was a retelling of the Celtic legend about Tristan and Iseult. In fact, I’d never even heard the legend of Tristan and Iseult in middle school, let alone the world that is Celtic mythology.
I remember the first time I read this book—her descriptions and vocabulary were still a bit above my head and for some pages, I was bored. I remember wondering why this book was so well thought of. And then the love triangle set in.
For a hormonal teenager, reading about the love triangle of Drustan & Esseilte and Marc’h, King of Kernow (Cornwall) meant something I could identify with as a young teen in love. I loved the novel—the characters, the plot, everything. Drustan was awesome and all, but I found King Marc’h to be the better character. He held a strength and a passion not driven by a love potion. Instead of lust, he was love.
Disney Princes weren’t my thing. I didn’t want a silly prince to rescue me. I wanted someone I could fight beside, someone with a sense of humor, and eyes that looked on me with love.
Looking at the novel now, I have a much better appreciation for Diana L. Paxson‘s word choice and the cadence of her language. Her setting and description are accurate for the Celtic legend. Having been written in the 12th century, the story predates Romeo & Juliet as well as King Arthur, though I can see the influences it and other tales had on both works.
This novel is unfortunately out of print, but Amazon does have a few through resellers. I also see it pop up often in my local used bookstores. If you love Celtic mythology and fantasy legends with deep, historical accuracy, definitely check out this book. While not my particular style of writing, it taught me about the importance of historical accuracy and research when writing any sort of retelling or novel set in the past.
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