I found myself of two minds regarding Caedmon: The Lord’s Prophet. On the one hand I enjoy reading Chaucer and Beowulf, so I wasn’t put off by the Welsh and Old English terms, even when naming conventions make telling one person apart from another problematic at best. I certainly enjoyed how well-researched this book was, delving as it did into the lives of bards, and the battles and politics of medieval kingdoms.
The trouble was that the first half of this book tells more than it shows. We spend most of our time having the events of this book narrated to us; it feels like a history book account. In the second half of the book, the author switches tactics, bringing the novel into full birth. This is the point where things actually get interesting.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough to save it for me.
Another thing that just didn’t set well with me personally was how the story was handled. Caedmon’s contribution to ecclesiastical music cannot be understated; in essence, he helped liberate church music from inaccessible Latin hymns by creating hymns in the English vernacular. He is said to have began his career miraculously being ignorant of the art of song and being gifted with it in a dream. He is also said to have had a premonition of his death. The author attempts to explain both of these miraculous feats rationally, which I would have no problem with, except that it defeats Caedmon’s theme…
You see, the author has Caedmon saying things like “Don’t they deserve to feel some of the mystery? The Welsh monks are not so simple in their teachings” and “I have listened closely to the songs your people sing, even if I have never sung them myself. Some are quite simple, yet others require full attention lest the meaning of a single phrase slip by. They manage to seem to be simple stories, yet there is further truth for the wise to listen for, to take to their heart and ponder. Your sermons should be like that; at once simple and yet with half-hidden meanings and riddles to be pondered.”
Unfortunately, part of the reason for Deaconson’s novel is an attempt to speculate on how two mysteries might be explained away. It simply seems inconsistent. I rate this book 3 out of 5 stars.
From the Bookwyrm’s Lair
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author for review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”