Friday, 21 December 2012

Bird, Blood, Snow by Cynan Jones

review by Maryom

The original Peredur tale recounts the adventures of a youth bent on recognition as a knight in King Arthur's court. In true questing fashion, he defends maidens, defeats giants, and eventually overcomes the witches who have cursed him. In Blood, Bird, Snow, Seren's tenth in it's New Stories from the Mabinogion series, award-winning author Cynan Jones turns the tale into a modern Quixotian romp.

Peredur has been taken by his mother to live away from the housing estates in the hope of raising him away from the culture of gangs and violence that predominates there. Of course nowhere can remain isolated for ever and the arrival of a couple of kids on fancy bikes, inspires the young Peredur to customise his own and try to join their gang. His desperate attempts to impress them lead him to violence and brutality, and, despite the attempts of foster families and social services to channel his strength into more acceptable channels, he looks on track for an unhappy, extremely violent end.

In case you haven't discovered the series yet, Seren's New Stories from the Mabinogion series takes these ancient Welsh legends and folk tales and re-interprets them in a modern, or even futuristic, setting. Bird, Blood, Snow is an imaginative re-telling of the tale of Peredur, son of Efrawg, told through a journalist's notes and interviews, copies of police and psychiatric reports and newspaper cuttings. The reader is aware from the beginning that something horrific has occurred and is being investigated by the police, though we only discover what at the very end.  Whereas the original tale had Peredur as a hero, Jones' re-telling has him as a troublesome teenage thug. The qualities that made the medieval Peredur an heroic legend - his belligerence, aptitude for fighting, his persistence in the face of opposition - are out of place today and only lead to him into trouble. It made me wonder how many of Arthur's famous knights would feel comfortable in the modern, humdrum world; maybe they're best left in legends.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher -
Seren Books
Genre -
adult literary fiction, folk tales

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