cover image Brendan


Morgan Llywelyn, . . Forge, $24.99 (302pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86099-8

Veteran historical author 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 Préachán 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. (Feb.)