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    THE MYSTIC ROSE by Stephen R. Lawhead


    EOS, 2001

    When her father is murdered in the Basilica Santa Sophia, Caitriona vows revenge against the master of the Knights Templar who performed the cold-blooded assasination. When she sneaks into the Templar's castle, her first attempt at revenge is foiled partly by a white-robed monk (or the spirit of such a monk) who invites her to renew her family's longstanding bond with the Celtic Church. Cait, agrees, but vows to continue her search for revenge--a search that seems closer than ever to fruition when the monk points out a letter describing the location of the 'mystic rose,' or the Holy Grail.

    Cait sets off with her sister and a small group of knights to locate the Grail, now believed to be located in Spain. Behind her, the Templars follow, searching both for the Grail and for the woman who stole the letter. Conflict is inevitable--should Cait live long enough in the face of Moorish bandits, love-lorn Arab noblemen, and her ongoing conflict with her sister.

    THE MYSTIC ROSE is the third and final volume in author Stephen R. Lawhead's CELTIC CRUSADE series (see more reviews of novels by this author). The crusades represent a critical period in western history--a time when the leadership of Europe was wrested from the faltering hands of Byzantium by the combined attacks of the Turks on the east and the kingdoms of the west (France, Norman Sicily, the Italian states, especially Venice, and Germany). Religious artifacts of any kind were key elements of both commerce and power. The three artifacts that this series concerns itself with--the Lance that killed Christ, the Cross that bore him, and the Cup of the last supper) are perhaps the most holy in the Christian world (perhaps joined by the Ark of the Covenant).

    Unfortunately, Lawhead's characters are not up to the history that surrounds them, nor to the artifacts they search for. Cait is continually angry, ignoring her promise to her father to forswear revenge and the clear warnings given by holy visions as well as common sense. She treats her sister like the poor woman is beneath contempt. Worse, she behaves irrationally and impulsively. Although this provides the basis for character growth, by the time Cait is ready to grow, I wasn't much interested in seeing it.

    As with THE BLACK ROOD, the novel was wrapped within an early 20th century account told by a member of the inner circle. This wrapper has high potential, but was not developed sufficiently to involve the reader.

    Two Stars

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