Gwyddno Garanhir, king of the marvelous sunken nation of the Lowland Hundred, was accustomed to dealing with miracles and wonders, but nothing could have prepared him for the arrival of a mysterious child found by his luckless son, Prince Elphin. Seeing no other option, the royal family adopts the young boy who quickly grows into a clever, eloquent youth and is given the name Taliesin.
A few months before his thirteenth birthday, his hapless foster father, Elphin, gets captured by the merciless ruler of Gwynedd, King Maelgwn. Now with the two nations at each other's throats and his guardian's life hanging in the balance, Taliesin must uncover the truth about his extraordinary powers before everyone he loves is consumed by total war.
Set in sixth-century Wales, Taliesin, Chief of Bards is the forgotten legend behind one of Britain's most ancient bards, whose poetry continues to inspire to this very day. Filled with imaginative settings, memorable characters, and mystifying acts of magic, this is the story of the treacherous path to self-discovery and the heavy price we often pay for enlightenment.
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Alexander Corby is an American writer, performer, and teacher with Welsh heritage. A Vassar College alumni and graduate of the Dell' Arte Internation School of Theater in Blue Lake CA, Alexander has travelled the world to bring the joy of theater and creation to underserved communities and families. He currently resides in Puerto Rico where he teaches both science and theater.
I am Taliesin
I sing of true lineage
I will continue to the end
in the pristine service of Elphin
"Taliesin, Chief of the Bards" by Alexander Corby is a mesmerizing journey through sixth-century Wales, where the line between reality and myth blurs, and the fate of nations hangs in the balance. Gwyddno Garanhir, king of the enigmatic Lowland Hundred, encounters miracles and wonders in his sunken realm, but his world is forever changed when his hapless son, Prince Elphin, stumbles upon a mysterious child. The royal family's decision to adopt this enigmatic boy, who soon takes the name Taliesin, sets in motion a tale of self-discovery, magic, and the high cost of enlightenment.
Set against the backdrop of ancient Wales, Corby weaves a captivating narrative that breathes life into the forgotten legend of Taliesin, one of Britain's most ancient bards. The author's deep research is evident, and while he firmly suggests that readers treat the historical aspects as predominantly fictional, his knowledge of the era is impressive. Corby's dedication shines through in his ability to incorporate details from the Welsh monk Gildas's firsthand account, delving deep into the Welsh and Latin languages of the time.
Taliesin took a moment to steady his breath, which suddenly seemed out of control before he moved again. He turned and viewed himself in the mirror. He ran his hand over the hilt of the training sword hanging from his belt. Since Elphin had been sent off to Gwynedd, Taliesin had been tossed from one apprenticeship to another, he had been ignored, demeaned, and brushed off by almost everyone he knew in the Lowland Hundred as he watched his life slowly unravel over the course of a fortnight.
Tonight though, he was the one with the upper hand. He was the one that understood the danger the whole kingdom was in, and it was his house that the wolf had decided to poke his nose into.
And tonight, he would be the one holding the sword.
One minor warning lies in trying to pronounce the intricate names and places which, as most people who have any knowledge of the Welsh language can attest, can be challenging to verbalize, adding an initial hurdle to the reading experience. However, this small inconvenience is overshadowed by the captivating storyline, meticulous attention to time frames, geography, and relationships, ensuring a seamless immersion into Taliesin's world.
Corby's tale balances on the fine line between horror and humor, but allows the reader to immerse into the magical world surrounding the legend and lore of this infamous bard. Yet, the heart of the story lies in Taliesin's quest to uncover the truth about his extraordinary powers and save those he loves from the impending war between nations. The narrative is tight, and the pacing keeps readers engaged from start to finish with one caveat noted below.
In an instant, Taliesin's world exploded into a mishmash of color, sounds, and patterns. He had to fight with his own body to keep himself from panicking. He wished that biting his thumb would at least give him consistent visions. He found, on the contrary, that each vision had its own feeling to it and its own pace, making Taliesin frightened and bewildered. He saw waves of red-brown and deep emerald lapping their way up the trunks of trees that swelled and heaved as if they were breathing. Blues and violets streaked with veins of luminescent orange siphoned out of thin air and dripped down the small twiggy fingers of the outstretched tree branches. The night, which had seemed almost dead silent in the late winter night air, now crackled with strange chirps and growls that came from the eaves of the forest.
As a lover of folklore and mythology, and because of my own affinity for the Welsh legends and stories, I was drawn to this enchanting retelling of Taliesin's story. Corby's prose is nothing short of beautiful, evoking the feeling of witnessing the bard's performances in person. The author's dedication to preserving ancient tales in a vibrant and compelling manner is commendable.
In essence, "Taliesin, Chief of the Bards" stands as a prime example of thoroughly researched historical fiction. The characters leap off the pages with vividness, and the plot is refreshingly filled with unexpected twists and turns. The only caveat, is that while the story begins at a somewhat leisurely pace which almost stilted this reviewer's curiosity about the inciting incident propelling the story forward, my patience was handsomely rewarded as the tale evolved into a cinematic experience.
“So, it shall be officially recorded, here begins the final test for the youth Taliesin of Cantre'r Gwaelod. The youth who infiltrated my country and castle and who names himself 'Chief of Bards.'
Alexander Corby's remarkable book is a testament to the power of storytelling and historical fiction. It transports readers to a bygone era where magic and reality coexist, and the enigmatic Taliesin embarks on a journey that will leave readers eagerly awaiting the author's continuing words on the page.
“Taliesin, Chief of the Bards” by Alexander Corby receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company
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