Friday, May 11, 2012

The Mystic Rose

The final entry in the Celtic Crusades trilogy by Stephen Lawhead is entitled The Mystic Rose. In the first two entries of this epic, set in the late 11th/early 12th century, members of a Scottish noble family have taken up the crusade mission given to them by Saint Andrew to recover the most holy relics of Christiandom. The Iron Lance followed the trek of Murdo Ranulfson from Scotland to the Holy Land to find the lance the Roman centurion used to pierce Jesus as he hung on the cross. The Black Rood followed the exploits of Murdo's son Duncan as he followed his own path to the Middle East to claim the cross on which Jesus was crucified. In this tale, Duncan's daughter Caitriona takes up the call, albeit reluctantly, to find the holy cup used by Jesus at the last supper.

The story begins as Lord Duncan has taken his two daughters on a journey to retrace his pilgrimage to the Holy Land many years earlier. Cait, the apple of her father's eye, is 27 years old and, although lovely, is content to find adventure with her father and follow her own path. On a stop in Constantinople, Duncan is fatally stabbed by an old adversary. As he lies dying in Cait's arms, he pleads with her not to avenge his death. Yet moments after Duncan passes, Cait begins to lay out a plan to do just that. However, in this moment when the world that she knows has been taken from her, Cait is visited by Saint Andrew who gives her a different purpose. Yet Cait does not fully realize her destiny and who is in control of her steps.

The story follows Cait as she grows into herself. From Constantinople to Cyprus to Spanish Aragon, we follow her as she slowly comes to grip with who she is supposed to be. The lessons that she learns are accompanied by untimely death, by harsh lands and hard-hearted people, and by a few loving and caring souls along the way. Even though this part of the trilogy was notably weaker in terms of character and plot development compared to the first two books, I very much enjoyed this series and my time in Lawhead's world.