I have just finished your book and really loved it. It kept me enthralled all the way through – I suppose partly because it is full of action but also because I felt I had been transported there in my imagination. I loved all the warfare strategy and the characterisation, both of which kept me completely in the moment. A great read. Shame I’ve finished it.
Mike Harrison, Education Consultant, Chinor, Oxfordshire, U.K.
Anyone who decides to write a historical novel is faced with the uncomfortable fact that there may be ample documentation regarding their subject; Hilary Mantel, author of ‘Wolf Hall’ has said that her job was to read as much as she could about her subject, Thomas Cromwell, weigh up the validity of the sources, and ‘fill in the gaps.’
In writing ‘Celtic Dreams of Glory,’ Barry Mathias is faced with with another challenge: there is little documentary evidence about his subject, Gruffyd ap Llywelyn, the first and only King of Wales, and what there is tends to confirm material already available. This has allowed Mathias to write a novel which stays close to the available facts, and yet adds enough fictional detail to make the characters come alive. Told from the perspective of two brothers, one a general, and the other a counsellor to the King, the novel explores the dynastic and tribal warfare that dogged Wales before Gruffyd’s brief reign, the ongoing battles they had with the Saxons, and, just as importantly, with the Welsh geography, and weather, which encouraged regionalism and independence amongst the various tribes of Wales. The final days of Gruffyd’s reign, which begins with the Saxon Prince Harold Godwinson’s unexpected winter advance, is stirring and memorable, but Mathias has added an effective and dramatic episode which charts a second attack on the coast of Wales by Harold’s allies from the little port of Llif Pwll (Liverpool). The risks and terrors of sailing in small boats, against the mountainous seas, is memorably detailed.
In one sense, of course, we know the ‘ending’ but the novel’s characters, scene setting, and dialogue carry the reader along, giving us a real insight into what was a turbulent and bloody time.
Dudley Newell, U.K.
A review from Patrick Brown of Island Tides, July 28, 2011 – Page 5
These poems, by Pender Island writer Barry Mathias, are crafted to be read aloud; their sounds, phrasing, and rhythms set an impressionist style. With an undercurrent of subtle and often sibilant alliterations, they call not for declamation, but the intimacy of a small and sympathetic audience of friends. Such as one might find on an Island. The theme is, not surprisingly, one of snapshots from the author’s journey; the title, Ebb Tide, marks an emphasis on life past its climax. There is a rage against the dying of the light, yet it is more sadness than anger, mixing acceptance with regret. Spring is imperfectly sketched, summer is momentary, autumn comes with early darkness, and winter imagines, once again, what might have been. Most of the 29 poems are loose collections of carefully crafted images; words chosen with a precision that at times defeats poesy. Each stands on its own, literally and metaphorically; yet a deliberate reading from beginning to end of this little book yields a certain coherence, changing with the seasons of the human metaphor. A collection of snapshots. The author is more observer than participant; he confirms his passions and his hopes, but mainly in the abstract. Humans appear more in terms of the evidence of their passing than as active players. But the land remembers, and Mathias remembers with the land. The book is deliberately tidal; the sea and the shore inspire awe. The future inspires ‘unfocused anticipation’. But the author longs for permanence and certainty but implores the reader to ‘embrace the change’. The poems in this book are clearly a selection from many accumulated over the years. There must be more. In the meantime, it is up to the reader to add his thoughts to this all-too-brief collection.
Reviews of the Ancient Bloodlines Trilogy
- Awesome books, read them all! Thanks for the great writing that kept me occupied during sleepless nights! Unfortunately they never put me to sleep, just kept me hooked to see what happens next!!! Melody Pender, Pender Island, B.C.
- “A terrific tale, fast paced and gripping to the end. Looking forward to the next two books in Barry Mathias’s ambitious trilogy, on 12th Century medieval England, the Crusades and the Holy Grail.”
— Mike Harcourt, author and former Premier of British Columbia
- “Crafted with great cunning and flair which makes for a wild and electrifying read.”
— Ann Coombs, futurist and bestselling author
- “A band of 12th Century characters fan out across southern England, Europe and the Holy Land unraveling a mystery about lost birthright, power and magic. Full of twists, turns and incidents and vivid descriptions of the violence and lawlessness of medieval life and of the medieval landscape, a thought provoking read.”
— Island Tides newspaper
- “A good story well told. Moves along with speed and clarity, and with such vivid imagery and dramatic action that the reader becomes excited and possessed, as are the book’s characters themselves.”
— Robin Skelton, poet, author of Fires of the Kindred
- “In the genre of fantasy quests Barry has written a well rounded adventure, full of details, and packed with action, but has also kept the historical context clear. He has offered a different perspective on the Quest for the Holy Grail which is easily accessible to a wide audience.”
— Helen Lemon Moore
- “I am glued to the story line and the descriptions of the soldiers, places, and John and Gwen and the Knights of the Order, they are very vivid in my mind. After two books they are friends of mine and I must see them to the end.”
— Karen Gagnier