Styled ""Book One in the Pendragon Cycle,"" apparently the first of a series retelling--yet again--the Arthurian sagas, to which Lawhead (the Dragon King trilogy; Empyrion II: The Siege of Dome) has added a few curious embellishments of his own. The two narrative threads here eventually intertwine. One concerns the mysterious appearance--baby Taliesin is found sewn inside a sealskin sack in a weir--and childhood of Wales' greatest bard. He's adopted by his rescuer, prince Elphin, and schooled by the wise old druid Hafgan, at a time when the Roman occupation of Britain is faltering as barbarians from the North and East threaten to invade. The other strand features Charis, a willful and beautiful princess of Atlantis. Amid ominous portents and dark murmurings, and a meaningless civil war, Charis becomes the greatest of all bull-dancers before an earthquake destroys Atlantis. The few survivors settle in western Britain, where Charis soon becomes attracted to the now handsome and angelic Taliesin. But the Atlanteans regard the British natives as beneath them, and only after much soul-searching do the couple marry. Eventually, Elphin's Roman-trained troops become allies of the snobby Atlanteans, but a jealous advisor orders Taliesin murdered--but not before the bard fathers Merlin. Clearly, Lawhead has done plenty of research, but digested little of it--he never manages to convey what an ancient bard was or did. The geography is hazy at best. The bull-dancing comes by way of Mary Renault, who did it much better. And the swollen, lumpy narrative doesn't help. All in all, a mediocre warm-up.