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It's Not All Pretty
Magdalen Rising: The Beginning
Prequel to The Passion of Mary Magdalen
In this Celtic wonder tale, young Maeve and Jesus, brimming with youthful charm and arrogance, find each other and fall in love, forging a bond that is stronger than death. Born to eight warrior-witches on a magical isle, Maeve heads for druid college with high hopes of meeting the Mysterious Other she has glimpsed only in visions and dream.
From the start, Maeve and Esus, as the druids call him, are sparring partners, by turns delighting and outraging each other with their opposing views on just about everything. Their pleasure is overshadowed by a brilliant but unbalanced druid who knows a perilous secret about Maeve’s past. He also becomes obsessed with Esus as a perfect victim for the most sacred druid rite.
In a daring scheme, Maeve risks everything to save the life of the one she loves.
From Booklist *Starred Review* The prequel to The Passion of Mary Magdalen (2006) lets us in on how a redheaded Celtic lass wound up the literal bride of Christ, and whereas Passion was deeply based in the New Testament (and the sociology of Roman brothels), Magdalen Rising is rooted in Celtic lore. Mary, nee Maeve, was born to weather-witches on a magical, floating island somewhere in the Celtic lands. Raised with unconditional maternal love and with few restraints on body or soul, she grows to be a glorious creature, with plenty of the talents that her possibly divine mothers used for witchcraft. Yes, she has more than one mother, though it would be giving away the story to explain how. She also has a destiny that she encounters in a vision of a man in desert garb taking a leak--a trademark Cunningham touch, both intensely religious and frankly, even humorously, embodied. When she meets that man at druid school, their fated love begins to unfold. Is he Esus, doomed god of the Celts, or Jesus, doomed god of the Jews, or both? Is she goddess or woman or both? Cunningham plays with complex theological issues--the role of embodiment in salvation, the gender of divinity, the question of sacrifice--but she is preeminently a storyteller, and the reader engages those questions within a marvelous, romantic tale.
--Patricia Monaghan Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
"Smart and Earthy...richly imaginative...the epitome of the storyteller's art." - St. Louis Post-Dispatch (chosen as one of "The Year's Best Books")
"This amazing book could well become
a classic of women's literature."
- Booklist (chosen as one of the "Year's Ten Best Fantasy Books")
"Raised on the mythical
Isle of Women by eight weather-witching mothers and no father but the sea god,
Maeve the Red first catches a glimpse of her cosmic twin in the reflection of a
pool. Caught disturbing the scholars in Jerusalem’s temple with his impertinent
questions “about my father's business,” the boy of her vision is told by the old
prophetess Anna to leave his people and seek wisdom among the distant Keltoi.
Pursuit of their conjoined fates brings them to the druidic school, where
ancient wisdom abounds, along with dark violence erupting from a hidden past.
This novel is not for everyone. Strict Christians may want to stoke the bonfire to Fahrenheit 451 at the very notion of Jesus of Nazareth meeting Maeve—to become his lover Mary Magdalene—while at druid school on the sacred Isle of Mona. Historical novel purists may bang the far wall with the book at the constant, conscious anachronisms, which are a fair part of the book’s charm and easily explained by reincarnation.
For me, however, this is the best book I’ve read in a decade: beautiful, witty, wise, fearless in facing the hardest issues. The poetry on every page is all we’ve ever imagined of bards who could reportedly turn the tide. The magic is visceral and as earthy as roasted hazelnuts. Cunningham has written Celtic circles around Marion Zimmer Bradley." -- Ann Chamberlin, Historical Novel Society
Reading group guide for Magdalen Rising
To read about the entire trilogy, The Maeve Chronicles, click here.
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