Magdalen Rising Review
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In this fantasy about the relationship between Mary Magdalen and Jesus Christ, Mary’s life begins on the remote Otherworld Celtic island of Tir na mBan, where she’s given the name Maeve Rhuad. Her father is Manannan Mac Lir, god of the sea, and her mothers are warrior weather witches, set to train Maeve in their different arts.

A wise ancient woman foresees a greater destiny for Maeve, so her mothers send her off to bard school at the famous Druid College on the Isle of Mona. Here, Maeve hopes to encounter the Mysterious Other whom she’s only glimpsed in visions. A young Jew from Galilee, known as Esus, also gains admission to the college and quickly begins a volatile friendship with Maeve, who wants to be much more than friends. If you haven’t guessed already, Maeve and Esus are Mary and Jesus.

Maeve attracts the attention of a brilliant but unbalanced druid with a buried secret, which Maeve unwittingly helps him to remember, turning the druid’s attention to Esus, which becomes a dangerous obsession. Though danger lurks everywhere, and they’re caught up in the hostility between the free Celtic tribes of Britain and the Romans, Maeve was raised a warrior, and she will protect the man she loves no matter what the cost.

I’ll be honest up front—if you’re a strong Christian, you will be offended by this book. I don’t care for the theory that Mary and Jesus were lovers either, simply because their special friendship has been turned into something sordid that you might see on a soap opera. So when I read a novel based on this theory, I read it as pure fantasy. It’s often a very entertaining tale—and Magdalen Rising is no exception.

Ms. Cunningham has a wild and deep imagination, and I couldn’t help being pulled into Magdalen Rising. I can’t really say that I liked Maeve. She was too brash for my liking, but I got more than a few laughs when she challenged Esus about his beliefs or questioned aspects of the Bible that really don’t make much sense.

Esus is a great character, and Ms. Cunningham took care in shaping his personality to match what the real Jesus may have been like. One thing is for certain—you won’t be able to blame Maeve for falling in love with Esus.

If you don’t mind the shock value, the challenge and poking of fun at scripture, and a boiling pot of Celtic, Jewish, and Christian belief, you’ll find Magdalen Rising a most entertaining and amusing read.

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