The Paradise War

by Stephen R. Lawhead
Series: The Song of Albion #1
400 pages, Fantasy
Reviewed by Jeanne

A fantastic read, blending history and fantasy to perfection; a good deal of violent content.


It all started with the aurochs.

When this huge, supposedly extinct creature is found in the wilds of Scotland and the story reported in the newspaper, Cambridge don Simon Rawnson sets his heart on going to see it. His friend, main character Lewis Gillies, is not so sure. Especially when Simon disappears into a cairn - a Celtic sacred place - and does not reappear.


Characters are portrayed with all their faults, but the line between good and evil is kept clear. There are traitors and treacheries in some places, but these are paired with mercy from the wise and good characters.

Spiritual Content

The Celts of the Otherworld worship "The Goodly-Wise One" who, it would appear, is God. Wicked creatures known as the Horde of the Pit are also present; a story bears strong similarities to the Biblical narrative of Cain and Abel. Some of the spiritual content seems to have a strong mystical quality, but nothing directly adverse to Christianity.


Battles are frequent in the text and thoroughly described. The most graphic of these is near the beginning when a character cuts off an enemy's head, but there is much more violence than that. While training to be a warrior, one character knocks out another (no blood is shed). Later, a scene of a past battle is described well enough to move the reader. A hunt takes place in which several animals die, and there is another battle later on. Two men are murdered.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Mead and wine are both consumed. At a restaurant Lewis has a little too much wine, but this is cooled with some strong coffee. Later, Lewis drinks mead and later wakes up with a slight hangover.

Sexual Content

At the beginning, Lewis comments on his longing for marriage. Simon has a girlfriend; in a brief description of the Demon Horde, their bodies are remarked upon. The Celtic warriors fight naked to show their bravery, and the Demon Horde also wear no clothes. Neither of these last two are sexualized.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

The wicked creatures make crude gestures; "pee" is used once; upon awakening at one point, Lewis feels that his bladder is swollen. While in the midst of a tirade, Simon uses "bl**dy"; the word is used a couple of times later. He also uses the phrase "bl**min' a***" and "d*mn" in the same tirade.


Lawhead's "The Paradise War" is an example of stellar story-telling not often found in modern literature. The characters come alive from the pages of the book; the reader can feel both pain and exhilarating joy as the narrative progresses. Celtic history is blended spectacularly with fantasy lore; the use of the Gaelic language lends an authentic feel to the tale. In addition to this, "The Paradise War" is not only fast-paced but also steady, remaining interesting and gripping and leaving the reader wanting to finish out the trilogy.

As for the violent content, it is not "gory" or "horrific," but rather it is compelling and kept in its place. However, the violence is meant for older audiences and judgment should be exercised.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 4.5
Written for Age: 13+

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