I’m going to be completely honest with you upfront. I’m cheating with this article. I know the title says “Five Stephen R. Lawhead Books You Should Read” but I’m going to include some series as well. So, to be perfectly accurate, this should probably be called something else, like “A Bunch of Stephen R. Lawhead Books You Should Read”, but that sounds too daunting and it’s not as catchy. We’re going to stick with my original impulse for the title and you are just going to have to accept that this list will include more than five books. Sound good? Good.
Stephen Lawhead has been writing spiritually-saturated historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction for over 40 years. He has shaped the imaginations of thousands of readers, mine included. His first series, The Dragon King Trilogy, opened my eyes to the world of fantasy in a way no books before it had been able to do. I devoured that series in the 4th grade and it played a massive role in sparking my love affair with reading. Sadly, Lawhead is criminally underrated as an author. I hope I can do my admittedly meager part in changing that. If this accomplishes nothing else, I hope that it inspires a few of you to pick up one of his books. They will not disappoint you.
To me, this is the cream of the crop. The pinnacle of Mr. Lawhead’s career. Don’t read that as a knock on his other books. Not in the least. I just happen to believe Byzantium is one of the top 20 books I’ve ever read. Maybe even top 10. It’s that good. Here is what I said about it in an article I wrote with fellow Rambler Benjamin Plunkett a few years ago:
Spanning years and continents, languages and cultures, kingdoms and religions, Byzantium is an epic by any definition. It is a story of faith, loss, hope, suffering, and restoration. Lawhead weaves a story that is one part Homer’s Odyssey and an equal part the book of Job. Firmly rooted in history, Byzantium tells the hero’s quest of Aidan, a ninth century Irish monk, tasked with delivering The Book of Kells to the Holy Roman Emperor, a world away. The journey does not go as planned. If it did, there would not be a story worth telling. Instead, we are gifted a profound exploration of faith and doubt. The journey is riddled with danger; death waiting at every turn. Aidan’s simple faith at the outset of the story is tested time and again. Our faith is tested as we take the journey with him.
Lawhead writes with an amazing mixture of poetry and simplicity. His words paint a beautiful picture but never take the focus off the story and the characters. There are moments of pure delight and moments of complete despair. Heart breaking sacrifices and rapturous transcendence. Byzantium will break you and leave you stronger for it.Byzantium Review
I love this book so much that I convinced my wife to read it and we named our first son after the protagonist. What else do you need to know?
The Pendragon Cycle
If Hollywood had any courage or vision left, they would adapt Lawhead’s King Arthur saga into an epic film or television series. Lawhead shows incredible respect to the myths and legends but makes the story his own in ways no other writer has come close to replicating. It’s a fresh, original vision of what King Arthur, Merlin, and the Knights of the Round Table would have looked like in real life, with just a touch of the otherworldly. It’s beautiful, heart-stirring stuff and I’m blown away every time I revisit his world. There are technically six books in this series but if you stick to the original three: Taliesin, Merlin, and Arthur, you will get the most important elements of the story.
The Song of Albion Trilogy
Here is another Lawhead series that should be adapted into an epic television series, ala Game of Thrones. The Song of Albion is Celtic Mythology at its best: breathtaking scope, visceral, transcendent, awe-inspiring, and infused with an overwhelming sense of wonder and life. This story has it all: honor, betrayal, courage, loyalty, romance, epic battles, and deep spiritual undertones. Our view of life is awakened when seen through the eyes of Albion.
The King Raven Trilogy
We’ve all seen or read dozens of versions of the Robin Hood legend. Take all the things you think you know about Robin Hood and toss them aside because Lawhead once again proves he is the master of re-envisioning. To be clear, Lawhead doesn’t treat the legends with disrespect. No, he uses them as a foundation but he builds something bigger, earthier, and more impactful than you could ever imagine. His King Raven is a saga of utter darkness pierced by goodness and hope.
Consider this Byzantium-Lite. It’s a similar story but with enough twists, turns, and deviations to not feel like a carbon copy. It does not reach the highs of Byzantium but most books don’t. Patrick tells the previously untold, or unexplored story of Saint Patrick. We follow him from his youth and see how his trials and tribulations shaped the man he would become. It’s a story of faith and doubt it will challenge your own faith if you let it.
There are so many other stories I could write about, but since I’ve already referenced over a dozen books in an article ostensibly about five, I’ll stop. As I said at the beginning, I hope you will give one of these books a chance. I am confident you will find much to love in Lawhead’s writings. If you have already discovered Stephen R. Lawhead, please let us know in the comments here or on our social media accounts. Thanks for reading.