Having finished his sublime King Raven trilogy, I was eager to explore more works of author Stephen Lawhead. The book that I ended up choosing happened to be the only one of his left at my local library, a fictionalized account of the early years of Saint Patrick, called Patrick - Son of Ireland. This turned out to be a satisfying choice.
The story takes place in the early part of the fifth century. It begins following the exploits of Succat, a British nobleman's son, who at the age of 16, spends his lazy days hanging out with friends drinking and carrying on. One day his town is overrun by a band of Irish raiders who pillage the land. Every able-bodied soul that is captured is taken away as a slave. Such is what happens to Succat and he ends up serving a cruel master as an apprentice to a sheep herder, a position he labors at for seven years. During this time he tries to escape twice and is then beaten to within a breath of his life. He also falls in love and ultimately joins up with a troop of sympathetic Druids. In these years nearly all of Succat's decisions are based on easing his suffering and seeking his means of escape. Yet below the surface he begins to develop a deeper connection for the land and its people. As the years pass in captivity, his faith and compassion begin to be stirred.
Ultimately, Succat makes good his escape and returns home, only to find that nothing of his former existence remains. Without any other options, he travels to Gaul to make a life for himself, and there he joins up with a mercenary troop to fight under Roman command as they protect the territory from the local "barbarians". Succat fights honorably but is witness to the brutal deaths of thousands of soldiers. Although a low-level fighter, he manages to distinguish himself as he saves a high-level Roman official and transports him back to Rome. Here Succat takes the official's daughter as his wife and has a child, only to lose them both to the plague in short order. Lost and confused, Succat drifts alone for a season before he feels some inner prompting, pulling him back to Ireland. He steels his resolve and returns to the lands where he was once held captive. From this point, the true legend of Saint Patrick begins as he spreads the seeds of Christianity throughout Ireland and then into Europe.