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White Ravens (New Stories from the Mabinogion)

New Stories from the Mabinogion is an exciting series of contemporary novels by leading authors, reworking ancient Celtic myth cycles.The first two stories are published in October 2009. Authors so far commissioned are Owen Sheers, Niall Griffiths, Russell Celyn Jones and Gwyneth Lewis. The eleven stories in the Mabinogion are diverse medieval Welsh tales taken from two fourteenth-century manuscripts collating a much earlier oral tradition. They were first translated into English in the nineteenth century. They bring us Celtic mythology, a history of the Island of Britain seen through the eyes of medieval Wales, and include the first appearance in literature of King Arthur - but tell tales that stretch way beyond the boundaries of contemporary Wales. There is enchantment and shape-shifting, conflict, peacemaking, love, betrayal. A wife conjured out of flowers is punished for unfaithfulness by being turned into an owl,Arthur and his knights chase a magical wild boar and its piglets from Ireland, across south Wales to Cornwall, a prince changes places with the king of the underworld for a year - Each author has chosen a story to reinvent and retell for their own reasons and in their own way: creating fresh, contemporary tales which speak to us today, while tapping into a vigorous source of stories still flowing just beneath the surface of our culture. White Ravens by Owen Sheers is the first in the series and is based on the tale of Branwen, Daughter of Llyr, one of the most action-packed in the whole myth cycle. This 2009 retelling moves this bloodthirsty tale of Welsh/Irish power struggles and family tensions into the twenty-first century, but retains many of the bizarre and magical happenings of the original.
Via the sheep-farming landscapes of today's Wales and the Blitz-hit London of the 1940s, his novella dwells on 'the cyclical nature of atrocity' in swift prose that slips between its periods and levels with gravity and grace. --The Independent
Sheers makes his 20th-century setting sing but holds on to the otherworldliness of his source material... A spellbinding fable about male self-destructiveness and the effects of war on those who return home. --Financial Times
White Ravens and The Ninth Wave, the two first New Stories from the Mabinogion: It is hard to take on the giants of the past without being felled by them, but Celyn Jones and Sheers have done justice to the Mabinogion, and to themselves. --The Times
The most intriguing aspect of Sheers' take on the myth is the official sanction of mythology, through a government 'investing in superstition'. The use of the bizarre raven mission is a typical authorial technique for Sheers, combining the ancient with the contemporary, the real with the imagined.-- The Independent on Sunday (The New Review)
White Ravens and The Ninth Wave, the two first New Stories from the Mabinogion: Seren has had the intriguing idea of asking prominent Welsh authors to 'reinvent' the [Mabinogion] stories . . . the assignment has drawn both authors into fresh imaginative territory, without becoming entangled in what Alison, in Garner's The Owl Service, ruefully calls 'the complicated bit: all magic'. --Saturday Guardian
[The] core tale is framed by a gripping contemporary story . . . brilliantly absorbs the magical elements of the original.-- Saturday Guardian
A gripping tale of the unexpected that fuses Welsh myth and modern macabre into a superb, bewitching whole-- Sunday Times
This unsettling, resonant and fantastically strange tale is impossible to pin down. [ - ] the audacity of his vision is energizing, and his precise and elegant phrasing a joy.-- Daily Mail
Author: Owen Sheers
Agent: Zoë Waldie
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