Monday, July 25, 2011

Glastonbury Tor by LeAnne Hardy

Hardy has woven a very good novel around the history and legend of Glastonbury. The Glastonbury Tor is a hill in Glastonbury that still has a 14th century church tower standing. It, and the Glastonbury Abbey, have many legends associated with them. The oldest is that St. Patrick and a group of hermits settled there after his return from Ireland. Joseph of Arimathea is said to have visited with Jesus when Jesus was still a child. The legend also says Joseph returned after the crucifixion with the cup Jesus had used in the last supper, a cup Joseph used to catch blood from Jesus at the crucifixion. Known as the Holy Grail, it was the quest of King Arthur and his knights.
Until two thousand years ago the sea washed right up to the foot of Glastonbury Tor. Now a peninsula, it looks like an island when approached from some directions. The old Celtic name for Glastonbury means “Island of Glass.” Perhaps this is why the Isle of Avalon is often associated with Glastonbury, as are legends of King Arthur.
In Celtic mythology, Avalon was considered to be a meeting place of the dead, where faery folk lived. The Tor was believed to be the home of Gwyn ap Nudd, the Lord of the Underworld.
As early as 1100 AD there was monastic presence on the Tor. The Monastery of St. Michael is mentioned in a 1243 document. That church was probably destroyed by an earthquake in 1275. The church was then rebuilt in the 14th century with only the tower still standing. The monastery fell into ruin after King Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries (c. 1535), during the English Reformation. The last Abbot was hanged on the Tor (just as Hardy recounts in her novel) in 1539.

Hardy has woven all of those elements of legend and history into her novel. Colin Hay is seventeen. As he sees his mother die from a tragic childbirth, he blames his father and attacks him. Convinced he has killed his father, Colin flees. He heads to Glastonbury, seeking protection and a way to somehow cleanse himself of his sin. On his way he befriends a family who read an English Bible, against the law in King Henry VIII's England.
He is taken in at the Glastonbury Abbey and plans for his orders as a monk. Even when word reaches him that his father is alive and wants him to return home, he stays at the monastery.
Colin is witness to a troubled time in England's Christianity (1539). King Henry has thrown off Catholicism (to be able to divorce his wife) and established the Church of England. Colin suffers through the King's soldiers looting the Abbey of anything of value, from the silver clasps on the Bibles to the lead in the artistic windows. He is helpless as the Abbot and others are accused of treason against King Henry and hanged.
Hidden from the soldiers was the treasured olive wood cup. The Abbot had convinced Colin to keep it in his possession. Opposing Colin is an evil Father Bede who wants the cup, believing, “When I raise the Holy Grail and call upon its power, all men will fall at my feet and worship.” (201) Colin finds himself in a spiritual battle with Father Bede and the evil Gwyn ap Nudd, whom Bede worships.
Colin learns, “It takes a different kind of courage to do what is right when everything in you wants to do what is wrong.” (212)

Hardy has crafted a very good novel based on the legends and historical events surrounding the Glastonbury Tor. It is a good novel for teens (adults, too), showing a young man in a time of turmoil standing up to what God has called has called him to do. I highly recommend it. You'll read a good story and learn some history too.

Go to the author's website

Kregel Publications, 239 pages.

I received a copy of this book from Kregel Publications for the purpose of this review.


LeAnne Hardy said...

Thank you for your kind words, Joan. Some of my pre-publication readers said the book sent them to the Internet to find out more about the historical background. It sounds like you did the same! Yes, readers will learn a bit about history without meaning to, but I hope they will also enjoy the story and get a glimpse of God's great power and glory.

Marcia Lee Laycock said...

This book has been on my list for a long time. Guess I'd better get to it! :)