Ceri Shaw



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Bird,Blood,Snow - Cynan Jones - New Stories From The Mabinogion

user image 2014-03-14
By: Ceri Shaw
Posted in: Book Reviews

Bird,Blood, Snow by Cynan Jones from the Seren New Stories From The Mabinogion series Bird,Blood,Snow was published in paperback on 1st November 2012, priced 8.99 ( GBP )

Award winning Welsh writer Cynan Jones pens the latest addition to Seren''s critically acclaimed series:- New Stories From The Mabinogion

Read our interview with Cynan Jones

Other Titles by Cynan Jones

The Long Dry Everything I Found At The Beach


As befits any retelling of the Mabinogion ''Peredur'' story this is a grim and sanguinary tale. The original revolves around the hero''s attempts to win favour and esteem at the medieval court of King Arthur.

In re-imagining this myth for a contemporary audience Cynan Jones has adopted for his hero the juvenile terror and scourge of a modern council estate. No mere ASBO, we follow with horror as Peredur graduates from juvenile delinquency to the status of full blown adult psychopath. In the Afterword Cynan speculates that ''Peredur'' is an early, fragmentary and unfinished example of the medieval questing tale. Consequently the story is related by means of a series of testimonies, police and psychiatric reports and occasional press clippings. There is also a sprinkling of handwritten notes left by the protagonist and excerpts from an unnamed ''biographer'' who has ".....hijacked Peredur, tried to mythologise him".

These different perspectives are woven together skilfully to ensure a seemless narrative flow which is never jarring or disconsonant.

At age eight Peredur is the topic du jour at a local police planning conference:-

"All growed up. Oh well. At least he''s livened things up a bit. We were in need of some entertainment....what do you do with a f****** eight year old who sticks a f****** stick in someone''s eye?"

Later in his career of infamy he is interviewed by his biographer and reveals that:-

"...You can get a person all slopey with a collar bone, easy with something heavy. Not highly technical. Good, satisfying crunch when they go. Ribs are tricky. Sometimes they go, sometimes they dont. You kind of know when you''ve popped a lung though; easily confused mind with a cracked sternum: either way f****** cant breath."

The attempt to mythologize and romanticize Peredur referred to in the opening letter to the editor consists of a series of psuedo Nietzschean ramblings which, whilst they may throw some light on the internal workings of a diseased mind, do very little to make the character any more sympathetic:-

"Usually people make peace with the world and work out compromises so that the two will not hurt each other badly.

Well, some few do not make peace. And some of these are locked away as hopelessly insane and full of fantasy.

I know full well I choose now, one way or another, whether to climb aboard, let myself be spun up in my delusion: in the speed and whirl of it. Let the world of my merry go round turn into a blur. It''s all choice. That''s what the sane sometimes don''t recognize....."

All in all this is a ghastly tale superbly well told. Not for the squeamish it is a must read for anyone with a taste for Welsh noir.It might also serve as a reminder to some that the tales of the Mabinogion have little to do with unicorns, fairy tale castles and damsels in distress.They are often accounts of ghastly and murderous events justified by a barbaric pre Roman, dark age and medieval warrior ideology. And of course.....none the worse for that.

Review by Ceri Shaw

Book Details

Bird, Blood, Snow
The eighth installment in the New Stories from the Mabinogion series transforms a classic tale into a modern Quixotian romp.
Written by: Cynan Jones
Published by: Seren
Date published: 2013-01-01
ISBN: 1854115898
Available in Paperback