The Ninth Wave (New Stories from the Mabinogion) by Russell Celyn Jones
|The Ninth Wave (New Stories from the Mabinogion) by Russell Celyn Jones|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A reworking of Pwyll, Lord of Dyfed from the Mabinogion. It's set in a post-climate change world with contemporary motifs, but retains the feeling that it's moving on with the highly developed Welsh narrative tradition that the original manuscripts form. I loved it.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 176||Date: November 2009|
Pwyll rules a medieval-style fiefdom in a post-climate change Wales. Life is different in many ways - there's a new-but-old social order built on feudalism and horsepower is the main means of transport. But in many ways it's much the same - people still fight one another, towns still have sink estates, rich boys still have too much time on their hands and precious little meaning in their lives.
Pwyll - who, as the author intends, bears more than a passing resemblance to Prince Harry - returns from a stint with the army and finds it difficult to fit in with his new role as lord. Neither a firm authorititave air nor a sense of noblesse oblige come easily to him. He feels rootless, shifty even. But then a dispute with a neighbouring lord requires him to trade places for a while and he meets a girl who is promised to someone else, and Pwyll suddenly finds some purpose - and, in time, a son. But then the son goes missing and his wife is blamed and everything starts to fall apart.
Russell Celyn Jones's reworking of Pwyll, Lord of Dyfed from the Mabinogion has the original's wonderful quality of being both timely and ageless. In our faithless world, the magical has become the psychological and the courtly the political and his story reflects this. But it also feels out of time, eternal even, and the story seeps in as you read with the understanding that this is a tradition, a reframing, intact and implicit.
It's sparse and elegant prose with huge but understated tension and it examines family tensions at a sometimes uncomfortably large magnification. Everything about it is evocative - of its own plot and conflicts, of past stories and traditions, of our own lives and the lives of those about us. And yet, there's not a word wasted.
My thanks to the nice people at Seren for sending the book.
We don't do enough re-working of the old myths and stories, you know, despite the fashion for all things ancient in fantasy. All the books that spring to mind are actually teen or young adult books. First and foremost, of course, is The Owl Service by Alan Garner, which makes use of another of the Mabigonion's stories. Also, and most shamefully unreviewed by Bookbag is the post-industrial setting of the Volsung Saga in Bloodtide by Melvin Burgess. But there's also Mal Peet putting Shakespearian tragedy into football in South America. Otherwise, if The Ninth Wave appeals, I think you might also enjoy Flint by Margaret Redfern.
We've reviewed another book in the series, White Ravens (New Stories from the Mabinogion) by Owen Sheers and you really shouldn't miss it.
The Ninth Wave (New Stories from the Mabinogion) by Russell Celyn Jones is in the Bookbag's Christmas Gift Recommendations 2009.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Ninth Wave (New Stories from the Mabinogion) by Russell Celyn Jones at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Ninth Wave (New Stories from the Mabinogion) by Russell Celyn Jones at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.