A fictionalized biography of St. Patrick, circa a.d. 400, concentrating on the “lost years” of the famous Irish patriarch.
The patron saint of Ireland was actually Welsh—real name, Succat of Morgannwg. The son of a noble landowning family loyal to the Romans, Patrick was raised a Christian and expected to succeed his father as lord of the manor. But Britain was a far-flung outpost of Rome, in constant danger of invasion by barbarian tribes, and it took a cohort of Irish raiders only one night to lay waste to his family’s estate and carry Patrick off to Ireland as a slave. There, in a land even wilder and more barbaric than Britain, Patrick herded sheep for seven years before he was able to escape and make his way home—leaving his wife, Sionan, behind. Reunited in Britain with his childhood friend Julian, now a priest, Patrick and Julian came to live in the home of Bishop Cornelius, serving the bishop as companion, guide, and translator. In Ireland, Patrick had studied the Druid religion and had even considered becoming a Druid bard, so he was able to explain Druid theology to the Christian missionaries who had been working with little success to convert the island. When he was captured by the Irish and lost his family and fortune, Patrick also lost his faith in the Christian God who had proven unable to save him, but Julian and Cornelius slowly work him back into the fold. Eventually, Patrick is willing not merely to forgive his Irish captors, but to work on their behalf by returning to them as a missionary—and the rest is history.
A straightforward Celtic paperback yarn, but this one is blessedly short on the talking trees, magic swords, and warrior maidens that clutter up so many from Lawhead (Mystic Rose, 2001, etc.). Still, you’ll still need to be a serious Celt-ophile to get through it.