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The Ash Spear by G. R. Grove
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5423218,071 (4.24)2 / 23
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It took a long time for me to get around to finishing this book. I go through feast and famine stages with my reading, and unfortunately I was having a hard time sitting down to finish. I've had to resort to audiobooks because I don't have much time at home, and that was obviously not an option with this book.

This is the third book in a series, and I have not read the others so I'm not sure how this tale fits into the grand scheme, but as a stand alone it still held up. I'm not sure if he is a recurring character but the books main character is Gwernin a Storyteller. He is apprenticed to a renowned bard and is hoping to follow in his footsteps.

He grows a lot in this tale, he fights a little, he starts to find his poetic voice, and in the end he finds out more more about himself and his desires than he thought possible. There are elements of his character that I wasn't fond of, mainly his insatiable appetite for women without knowing more about who he was as a man. I don't know if it's his youth, or a permanent character attribute though I expect it's the latter.

It's an interesting book, and I'm glad I finally was able to curl up and read it. ( )
  whisperingfen | Jan 28, 2012 |
Finally got around to reading this book. I was slightly confused as I hadn't read the others, but it was an intriguing storyline with great characters. I'll definitely go back and reread after I've picked up the previous titles. ( )
1 vote mlsmit | Aug 8, 2011 |
The Ash Spear is the third book of G. R. Grove's Storyteller series, which details the adventures of Young Gwernin, a Storyteller and Bardic student. This book concludes the first trilogy of what is hoped will be about a 10 book series. As with the second volume, Flight of the Hawk, this third volume begins shortly after the end of the preceeding book. The glossary at the back is a big help with the Welsh words, which provide atmosphere for the story.

The neat, dove-tailed fit of each story/chapter makes each both a stand-alone tale and part of the larger adventure. That dovetailed fit applies to the novels within the series as well as to the chapters within each book. This would allow the reader to experience The Ash Spear without first reading the other two books of the series, but I don't know why anyone would want to do that. Each novel is so fascinating, you're bound to want to follow Young Gwernin's tale from the beginning.

I found the well-written novel easy to follow, and hard to put down. Each chapter left me eager to read more, and this book has left me on the edge of my seat while I await publication of the 4th book in the series. Let the adventure continue!

This ebook was provided to me by the author, free in exchange for review. This review is simultaneously being published on Dragon Views, LibraryThing, Amazon.com and anywhere else I deem appropriate. ( )
3 vote 1dragones | May 10, 2011 |
The Ash Spear is based in medieval Britain in the 6th century, the Dark Ages, and is the third of the series.
The other books are Storyteller and Flight of the Hawk written by G. R. Grove.
Gwernin Kyarwyd is an apprentice bard, or storyteller, and this is a story of his journeys and trials. He is telling the story which begins in his seventeenth year and his second year of being an apprentice to become a harper and bard from his teacher Talhaearn Tad Awen. Talhaearn is the pencerdd (head poet) and harper to Cyndrwyn, prince of western Powys in mid-Wales.
Gwernim has a love, Rhiannedd, who is "the dark-haired delight of my heart" and she is carrying his child.
There are a number of characters in this book that have a close connections and loyalty to each other. Some other characters are Taliesin Ben Beirdd, Ieuan, Ugnach of Caer Sean and Neirin. The names are Welsh and hard to understand at first.
I had to go back and read the first chapters to get the names straight. I have not read the other two books and think they may have helped but this can be a stand alone book. I began to pull the pieces together.
The book is after the time of King Arthur and Taliesin tells the story of when he was the bard for Arthur and the final battle.
One character in the book, Neirin, is going to walk the Dark Path and needs the help of three bards. The Dark Path is a Druidic spiritual rite of passage. It is becoming a true bard. They go to the Island of Mon,
The Ash Spear was "the symbol of warfare and manhood but also stood for awen, the poet's inspiration of the bards". I had to find this on researching because somehow I missed the definition in the book.
I liked the saying after most chapters" O, my children, is a story for another day" which encourages the reader to keep reading. It was like a bard leaving you waiting.
G. R. Grove does an excellent job of descriptions and helps the reader know where the characters are and what they feel. There are emotions, pain, food, drinks, people, daily lives and worry. I really liked this book and look forward to reading her other books. I give it a five star because of the details and leaving me to want to do more research.
Go to the authors blog on treGwernin.blogspot.com to see what she is writing.

Leona Olson ( )
1 vote mnleona | Feb 25, 2011 |
The Ash Spear by G. R. Grove is an entertaining fantasy novel with a lyrical, engaging narrative; it is a spirited book with a strong voice. The book is the third entry in the author’s Storyteller series (Storyteller and Flight of the Hawk being the others). I haven’t read the other books, but I found this novel stands on its own without confusing the reader on what went before.

The Ash Spear is set in sixth century Britain and tells of the continuing adventures of the bard-in-training Gwernin as he encounters kings, politics, war and hardship. I was impressed with the setting and background; the author did impeccable research and the history is brought to life with magnificent detail.

Written in the first person, the tale is spun with an effective tone, well flavoured in nuance and the right inflections. The narrating character is a genuine portrayal, coming across as a three-dimensional person with flaws. He was at various times amusing, heroic, irritating and unsympathetic, but always interesting. The book also does a nice job in depicting other characters and having them interact as a whole.

The Ash Spear does have a few problems, with occasional lapses in grammar and some poorly compiled sentence structure in the beginning of the novel. Also, the author ended the chapters with the same sentence, which I found quite annoying and repetitive. The novel, perhaps, could have benefitted from a shorter length as well; while beautifully written, some of the scenes had expansive descriptive passages which caused the pace to meander a bit.

Still, it was an enjoyable novel to read and appealing enough for me to consider reading the rest of the series. ( )
  scribe77 | Feb 16, 2011 |
A marked step up in quality from the 1st book (I skipped the 2nd entirely, though may go back and read it someday). Eminently readable as a standalone book.

Gwernin is our still young hero, and apprentice bard. Having apparently spent last summer out on raids in the North, he is back home with his girl, and continuing his lessons. The plot remains very similar to that in the 1st book, where he tours around some of the settlements singing songs and telling stories for the various chieftens. Although the brushes with the supernatural still appear, they are more restrained and clearly marked in the story. The balance between gwernin's life experience sand tlaes/songs he tells is much improved, although the actual songs have been unnecessarily included - without music or score the impact is lost.

What this book manages that the frist failed to do, is tell a cohesieve tale. This gives the story - even though still broken up by the annoying "tale for another day" ending of every chapter - better pacing and balance. It does flag a little bit in the middle, but not so much as to become boring. Gwernin still seems to live an idyllic life, without fear of disease or hunger, replete with easy women and warm clothes - but such is the lot of fantasy heros, even if historical evidence would suggest this was extremely rare.

One added bonus is that the short section of caving was well described, portraying an accurate feel of being underground. Overal this is much better book than the first in the series, and probably good enough to induce me to read the later works. ( )
3 vote reading_fox | Feb 11, 2011 |
I was lucky enough to receive the trilogy of books called Storyteller, Flight of the Hawk and Ash Spear. If you enjoy Jack White novels you will enjoy this trilogy. Set back in the mythical times of dragons and warriors and the main character who is a storyteller. We follow him as he learns from his master Talhaearn and competes in front of royalty against others to become a master. He starts out in Storyteller telling the story about King Arthur’s Raid on Hell.
In the second novel, Flight of the Hawk, the young storyteller moves on to more adventures as he does in the Ash Spear. I was going to provide more information but quite frankly I don’t want to give anything away. I really enjoyed all three novels. They flowed from one to the other nicely and the best part, or I should say one of the best because there were many, is that at the end of the novel is a pronunciation guide for all of the rather difficult Welsh words as well as a wonderful postscript by the author that I almost wished was at the beginning of the novels as the pronunciation pages should have been as well. Some people may be put off by all the weird names and such but I promise if you stick with it the trilogy is well worth it. ( )
  Ani36ol | Jan 27, 2011 |
I have enjoyed reading the Storyteller Series. I had read the first two books before reading The Ash Spear and I liked all three. The backstory from the earlier books comes to something of a conclusion in this book, but some openness is present (suggesting more books to come?). Reading the other two books is not necessary, each book can stand on their own, but the reader has a fuller experience with all three.

Gwernin is an interesting character, his ordeals and successes are believable and Grove is a talented author. It's clear the time period has been carefully researched. I'm a fan of any medieval/Authurian era fiction; and a 6th century traveling Welsh apprentice bard was definitely a topic to spark my interest. I look forward to reading more from Grove in the future. ( )
1 vote kkunker | Jan 5, 2011 |
Book received from The Member Giveaway Program
Finally finished the book after many interruptions.
Having not read the first two books, I thought I would not be able to understand this one but to be honest it does not seem to matter - nothing seemed to rely on the original books. Having said that my feeling was that this was a story lacking direction and content. It seemed to ramble from fireside to fireside without any of the "beginning, middle and end" that is normally associated with a story.
Over all, I probably just did not get the point but this is not a book that would make me rush out to read the first two or any more of this series.
Thanks for the opportunity to read it anyway. ( )
  jltott | Jan 3, 2011 |
Intially, I felt a little lost as not having read the first two books in the Storyteller Series, but as the story went on I became engrossed in the charactors and the setting. I love the time frame and the cultural references used. I will have to find the first two books and read them now. ( )
  jynxpierce | Dec 3, 2010 |
As I finished G. R. Grove's The Ash Spear I found myself wishing for more. I want to know what adventures come next for The Storyteller, Gwernin. I find Gwernin's telling of his adventures as an interesting way to look at the history of this period of the British Isles and particularly Wales. This being the time of traditions and history being handled by the bards of the time it is an interesting way to give us a look at what life was like at this time. I found this volume a very good continuation of Gwernin's story that I started in the second of the trilogy, Flight of the Hawk. Though it is the third in the series the books do stand alone well, though I will now have to get the first to see how Gwernin's career as a storyteller started.

I feel this gives us an good peek at what life at all levels was like during this period of history. It is a time hidden the mists because we have no real written record of what occurred at this time. We have only the stories and traditions that have been handed down to us. I believe Grove does and excellent job of weaving what is known with the traditions to give all a glimpse of what it would have been like to live at this time. From the position of the local kings down to what life would have been like for a slave of the time. I truly enjoyed reading this volume.

My only wish is that some how the story of Gwernin will be continued in the future. I believe he has a lot to tell us as he continues his life as a bard in the early days of Wales and the surrounding area. Gwernin please tell us more. Of course that "is truly a story for another day. ( )
3 vote qstewart | Nov 25, 2010 |
I did not know this was book 3 when I started reading it, so I thought it strange how sparse the references to the prior history of the characters was.

This historical fiction book comes across as being well researched and entertaining. The characters feel natural and the setting seems fine. The plot kind of meanders on, which I am somewhat ambivalent about. This means the plot feels like it follows a real person (why it follows just this person instead of somebody else isn't clear to me) but it also means there are short passages where the story doesn't really move anywhere.

The author has some minor problems. The narrative is told from the main character's point of view instead of the normal omnipotent storyteller. The author sometimes makes too much of the description, something normal in writing but that doesn't feel natural when you keep in mind who is telling the tale. There were several instances where I thought that this isn't how you tell a story, this is how you write a story.

Over all it was a book well worth reading, with some things such as the catch phrase at the end of each chapter "But that, O my children, is a story for another day" is something you either like or get annoyed by the repetition. Other thing such as using especial instead of extra or special made me stop and consider. Something that I don't see as good while in the middle of reading fiction. ( )
  Sosseres | Nov 20, 2010 |
Shortly after returning to his duties as bard apprentice, Gwernin again takes to the road, part of a war band seeking revenge and security. Gwernin's travels with his friend and bard Neirin are sprinkled with set pieces and anecdotes, an aspect of the series I've loved since the first book. Many such tales feature locations encountered along the trip, including abandoned Roman settlements and forts.

In The Ash Spear, two themes helped distinguish this book from the previous two titles: Gwernin's initiation into Druidic wisdom, and his journey through (and time spent in) Saxon lands. Both fit the style of the series, but bring forward ideas and people only hinted at up to now. Grove notes her description of Druidic rites is, necessarily, invented for the most part, due to lack of strong evidence indicating what rites were used. I'm always interested in discussion of the meaning and not only the ritual aspects of esoteric tradition; so, while The Ash Spear builds upon the hints left in the previous books, the story here focuses primarily upon Druidic rite and Gwernin's experience of them, and leaves interpretation to the reader. That fits the narrative voice, and while I am not expecting the detailed discussion available in such books as Schwaller de Lubicz's Her-Bak, I do look forward to continued expansion of this side of Gwernin's character in future books.

Gwernin's journey to Saxon lands was an unexpected and welcome treat. For me, the contrast between the Saxon farmstead in Deira and Gwernin's now-familiar place in Powys served as a parallel universe. There was very much that was similar between the two, remarked upon by Gwernin himself, but enough different that it cast into high relief the world Grove builds when describing mediaeval Wales.

Finally, the book's perspective on war and military campaigns is refreshing. The overarching story is familiar from stories by Lamb and Pyle: a war party complete with infantry and cavalry rides out in defense of a threatened homeland, and there is opportunity for heroism and gallant adventure. For the most part, though, the heroism and adventure fall to others, not Gwernin. He rides in the pack train, and that makes a world of difference. Much of the glamour rubs off, without it coming across like a lecture or modern moralising. A bit like hearing Hamlet's tale from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ....

Like the previous two books, I will re-read The Ash Spear. It retains the strong sense of place and history established in the first books in the series, but is not so much "more of the same" (which would be welcome enough) as it is an extension into areas untouched or hinted at in the preceding stories. ( )
5 vote elenchus | Nov 17, 2010 |
The third book in the Storyteller series, continuing the tale of Gwernin and his apprenticeship. This time we get descriptions of battle and cattle raiding and the chance of being actually involved in these, and not just telling stories about them, leads Gwernin into trouble.

Gwernin is an ideal protagonist - he has his flaws that make him interesting to read about. The stories and poetry flow nicely within the narrative. The touch of the mystical seems real to beliefs of the time. G. R. Grove's ability to write wonderful descriptive passages and generally write, what seems like, a realistic piece of historical fiction makes this a strong continuation of this series. I'll definitely be following Gwernin's story when the next book is published. ( )
3 vote calm | Jul 28, 2010 |
Another excellent offering from GR Grove in the Storyteller Series. In the third book, we follow Gwernin as he partially attains his dream of travelling with Taliesin during the summer season. He has left his old master behind, as well as his pregnant love, for the pursuit of knowledge and adventure. As his predecessor and friend Neirin becomes a full bard and walks the Dark Path of the spirit realm, Gwernin must deal with his own adversity in the form of the spoiled son of an associate of Talhaearn and Taliesin. The conflict between the two eventually crests as Gwernin is captured while trying to protect the boy and jeopardizing all of his dreams and promises as well as nearly losing his life.

My favorite part of this series is the format in which the author has chosen to present the story. Each of the chapters can stand on it's own as a complete tale, while at the same time being only a step in the larger story. As an unique and I'm sure at times difficult time period to write about, Grove has masterfully created a relatable world in 6th century Wales and characters who are endearing. I'm very pleased to learn that there will be a fourth entry in the Storyteller Series, and look forward to its release. ( )
3 vote nanajlove | Apr 8, 2010 |
This is a series that has grown on me. I received my copy with a bound in disk from the author with the preceding books on it, so I wouldn't be COMPLETELY lost. I do get lost, but it's lost in the world of the book, which is okay with me. I have been hooked on this author and will continue to read their works as they come out. I LOVE stories set around the time of King Arthur, and this (although being AFTER that time) doesn't disappoint with its clear attention to detail, and obviously research historical roots. I love tales about Bards as well, and this was an insightful and more historical look at who they really were and are
2 vote rosethorne1 | Jan 13, 2010 |
The Ash Spear, third book in the Storyteller series by G. R. Grove is quite different from my usual reading. It is based in the early days of the Middle Ages as Gwernin Kyuarwyd the storyteller, reminisces about his Bard training with Talhaearn Tad Awen. Each chapter is a separate part of the story loosely tied together through the voice of the storyteller.

I enjoyed reading the story if for nothing else than learning about this historical time period. The narrative explains the daily life of a traveling bard, life in the court and surrounding areas, and the constant fighting for more land all with lively details that put the reader in the middle of the story.
1 vote fmgolden | Dec 30, 2009 |
This is a series that has grown on me as I have read it. From the start it has been well researched and well written, with a wonderful sense of place in the narrative that sweeps the reader back in time to sixth century Wales. Maybe not quite as it actually was, because who can say how it was? but as good a re-creation of that historical setting as any I have read.

The series follows Gwernin, a young storyteller in the generation after Arthur as he travels across the land, much of the time with Taliesin the bard. In this book the story becomes an adventure filled with dispute and rivalries and many a self contained short tale. It culminates in a thrilling adventure, through which the young storyteller comes of age. Whether that is the end of his tale is not clear, but it wraps things up in a satisfying manner for this book at least.

The research is as good as the story here. We are treated to snippets from early medieval writings, and allusions to others. The Gododdin feature in this story (and I note that the author and I share a book containing that poetry, among others), and there are also allusions to Anglo Saxon literary tradition and just a snippet of Old English. All this adds wonderfully to that sense of place I mentioned.

The author's historical note makes clear on one area where the story departs deliberately from the more commonly accepted view of the 6th Century bardic tradition - but again, as the notes say, the literary tradition is nevertheless not always supported by the archeological evidence. They don't call this the dark ages for nothing! So for the purposes of a good work of fiction, no one would quibble with the digression I think.

So this book was an enjoyable read. It may be hard going for anyone unfamiliar with Welsh names and pronounciation, but that all adds to the flavour of the book. Anyone enjoying historical novels or celtic themes should enjoy this variation on the coming of age theme. ( )
5 vote sirfurboy | Oct 1, 2009 |
This is a well written book about Britain in the time of kings and bards. It is full of knowledge about the bardic life and the many cattle wars fought between minor kings, as well as slavery and farm life. I truly enjoyed reading this book. The only drawback was the last line of every chapter - it definitely took away from the story and really broke the flow. ( )
  carmelitasita29 | Sep 17, 2009 |
This book tells the story of one summer in the life of Gwernin, an apprentice bard, who travels with Taliesin around various kingdoms of 6th century Britain. Gwernin's adventures have something for pretty much any type of reader of historical fiction. For those who like adventure and the thrill of the battle, Gwernin gets involved in troubles between the rival kingdoms. For those who are interested in spirituality, Gwernin's friend Neirin walks the 'dark path' to become a true bard and Gwernin begins his own spiritual journey later in the book. For those who like romance, there is Gwernin's newly maturing relationship with his sweetheart Rhianneth and for those who enjoy poetry there are the songs that the bards sing during their journey.

This is the third in the Storyteller series, and there are often references to events of previous summers, which I assume are taken from the previous two novels. They don't get in the way however and I don't think that reading this will dull my enjoyment of the first two books when I go back to read them (with the exception of having the secure knowledge that certain characters will survive to make it to the next book!). I on't feel I really lost out in starting with the third book.

I found it took a little while to get into the story – partly as I spent most of the first chapter flicking between the main story and the pronunciation guide/glossary in the back to try and get the hang of the Welsh names and words. While it was really useful to have this, it is written in some kind of ‘proper’ phonetics rather than ‘stupid person’ phonetics that I understand, so I was still mystified about a few pronunciations…

After I had my head around that the story started to flow as Gwernin and his companions set out for Ynys Môn where Neirin would walk the ‘dark path’. This part of the story is not ‘realistic’, involving as it does characters taking part in each other’s dreams, but this fits into the rest of the story so well it was very easy to suspend my disbelief. Gwernin believed in what was happening and so did I and I never felt the book was crossing the line from historical fiction into fantasy, merely showing the reader that there wasn’t really such a line for our characters and this sort of ritual was a part of life (at least for bards anyway!).

After this episode Gwernin never really stops, moving from adventure to adventure at a very fast pace. This kept my interest very well - I found I was really looking forward to the chance to read more each day. The only downside was that I couldn’t help but feel sorry for poor Rhianneth worrying at home!

I also really enjoyed the poetry in this book, both in the poems and songs that Gwernin and friends perform for their numerous hosts and in the narration itself. Gwernin’s poetic voice comes through even when talking about the loss of his ‘trews’. It is at its best when he is describing his surroundings and the author uses this to create some beautiful images, for example the sea ‘silver-shining as a salmon in the sunlight’ was one of my favourites.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys either historical fiction or mythology (it fits well into both) and a poetic and yet so easy to read writing style. I’ll definitely be adding the two other books in the series to my wishlist (and any future ones, I hope there will be more as things are not entirely resolved at the end) ( )
5 vote Twynnie | Jul 19, 2009 |
The Ash Spear is the third book in the series, which starts with Storyteller and is followed by Flight of the Hawk. As such, the reader is thrown right into the action, with little introduction to the characters or the world. I haven't read either of the two previous books and didn't find this to be too much of a problem. The story stands alone, more or less, although there were plenty of references to past actions and events. Despite that, I really have to find the first two books and read them eventually.

G. R. Grove has set this series in the generation or so just after the time of King Arthur, and located it mostly in the Welsh and northern regions of the British Isles. However, from there the story is quite different from most of the Arthurian period stories I've read, which made for a refreshing change: Gwernin, who is both the main character and the viewpoint character is no warrior or leader, but instead is an apprentice bard with a healthy appreciation for the mystical (not to mention the practical).

Also, there is much more of a pagan presence throughout The Ash Spear than I've seen in some of the other stories of the period. However, it works, and I think, that fact is probably fairly historically accurate too, although I'm no expert on the period. Again, it is a refreshing change.

Oftentimes, the names in the story are a bit of a mouthful, and I don't think that a pronunciation guide/glossary for some of the terms used throughout the story would have gone amiss, but it's quite possible to get the gist of them from the context. Perhaps they were explained more fully in the earlier volumes?

At the same time, I found the language and phrasing used helped to set the stage for the period. Sometimes it's more archaic words, other times it's a phrasing where the words are somewhat out of order to the modern ear. G. R. Grove has also included several long selections of poetry, which makes sense, given that the main character is training to be a bard. There's even a section from Beowulf included later on in the book, although it's more scattered lines than an actual excerpt.

Gwernin (as the entire story is set from his viewpoint as he reminisces) is very descriptive about events and scenery during his reminiscing of the story, which all helps to set the stage. It's the details he remembered and added that really allowed me to be able to almost visualize the events and the scenery.

The one thing I found slightly annoying through the story was the repeated formula of "But that, O my children, is a story for another day." It's used to close off just about every chapter in the book, and I think also in other places as well. It's a minor point overall though.

As I said earlier, I really have to recommend this book, and I'm going to go hunting for the first two in the series.

http://allbookedup-elena.blogspot.com/2009/07/ash-spear-g-r-grove.html ( )
2 vote ElenaGwynne | Jul 13, 2009 |
This is not a book I would normally have chosen, and at the beginning I worried about the very Welshness of it, the names in particular. I need not have worried. Once I had got used to the names, and seperated Talhaearn from Taliesin the story took over. It is the story of a trainee Bard in 6th century Wales, soon after the Romans had left, and reminded me strongly of Homer. The storyteller moving from court to court telling stories of the heroes in battle, and singing songs. It is the third part of a series but stands well on it's own. I haven't read the earlier ones, and had no problem following it. There is some element of the mystical, which would have put me off, but it is extremely well done. The only slight criticism I would have, and it is minor, is the time scale. The whole story takes place in less than the nine months necessary for a pregnancy, but the feeling is of much longer.
It took me until the end to realise just what is meant by an ash spear! I leave that to the reader! ( )
2 vote unittj | Jul 6, 2009 |
For a review of the first three books in the Storyteller series, please click here.

It seems a rare thing when not only the writing but the story stays on the same high level through a series of books, and rarer still when the story continues to get better. I would place The Ash Spear, and the Storyteller series as a whole, in that most rare category.

As she did in adding a bit more action in Flight of the Hawk, Grove adds another element to the story, balancing the inclusion of a larger sense of the more spiritual or supernatural elements of British lore with the flow of characters, culture, and action already attained in the series. Also, to this reader at least, the wonderful flashes of humor used throughout the series really hit at the right moments, both cutting and creating tension in the tale even more so than in the previous volumes.

Overall, I think this is the best of the three Storyteller books. ( )
2 vote ulfhjorr | Jun 11, 2009 |
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