Circle of Stones

Anna Lee Waldo, Author, Anna Lee Waldo, Afterword by
Anna Lee Waldo, Author, Anna Lee Waldo, Afterword by St. Martin's Press $25.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-312-19843-5
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Mass Market Paperbound - 498 pages - 978-0-312-97061-1
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Researching Sacajawea, her first historical novel, Waldo encountered the legend of the blond Welshman, Madoc, who sailed to the Americas three centuries before Columbus. That tale inspired this well-researched but sometimes stolidly paced novel whose Irish heroine, Brenda, is the favored mistress of Owain, Prince of Gwynedd in North Wales, and mother of Madoc. When Owain falls prey to a superstitious prophecy and demands the newborn boy be put to death, Brenda flees with the help of Druids. On her forced return to Owain, she pretends Madoc has been killed. Brenda finds she cannot love Owain, but she does become his trusted adviser and a talented healer. The narrative is anecdotal and episodic, offering a variety of historical characters in the years 1151-1170 A.D, and employing archaic language and spelling. Waldo takes some unconventional risks: Owain's two wives, Gladys and Christiannt, both New Religionists (Christians), are presented as foolish, selfish women, in marked contrast to wise, courageous Brenda, who favors the Old Religionists (the Druids). Madoc, predestined at birth to be a leader and man of peace, later comes to seek out his mother and serve his father. Brenda is only one of several fully realized characters, a woman who struggles with the male-dominated 12th-century social code but still orchestrates a fulfilling life for herself. At times Waldo's determination to represent the religious and political history of the epoch retards the thrust of her narrative, but readers will appreciate the complex dynamics she portrays within her fact-filled epic. (Apr.)
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