Blodeuwedd, the fourth branch of the Mabinogion is one of the most famous and rich of the medieval Welsh tales. It has kings who can’t walk on the ground, rapists who are condemned to change into the beasts of the forest, a young boy cursed by his mother and a wizard who conjures a wife made of flowers for his nephew. Gwyneth Lewis’ retelling is set in the future. The tale is told by the Inspector of Wrecks, who has been tasked to examine a deserted ship, discovered in space. On the verge of retirement he brings all his experience to his last investigation of the physical and virtual reality fields of the ship, as well as the three bodies found floating in the hull. What he discovers shakes him to the core and forces him to question his beliefs about how the imagination creates our lives, and about the disasters that kill us.
"Seren's series of new stories inspired by the Mabinogion may be the greatest service to the Welsh national epic since Lady Charlotte Guest published her translation of the medieval folk tales in the mid-19th century. Scholars suggest the oldest branches of the saga belong to the 11th century, though Gwyneth Lewis proposes a date several millennia into the future, reconfiguring events into a space quest in which an inspector of lunar wrecks and his young assistant investigate an ancient Earth vessel and find it to contain one of the virtual reality consoles popular 'before you swallowed nano-synaptic dream tablets for recreation and training'. It provides a satisfyingly bizarre context for a narrative about an unfaithful woman made of flowers who turns into an owl, while Lewis's inspector observes events from a hilariously jobs-worth perspective: 'I'm an experienced enough traveller to know that you lose all dignity on a space trip. But that's usually to do with toilet matters, not being banished to a forest with your student, turned into an animal and forced to reproduce.'"
Alfred Hickling, The Guardian
Gwyneth Lewis was appointed Wales’ first National Poet in 2005, and composed the six-foot-high words on the front of the Wales Millennium Centre. She has published six books of poetry in Welsh and English: her first collection in English, Parables & Faxes (Bloodaxe, 1997), won the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize, as was her second, Chaotic Angels (Bloodaxe, 2005). Her first non-fiction book, Sunbathing in the Rain: A Cheerful Book on Depression (Harper Perennial, 2002) was shortlisted for the Mind Book of the Year. It has been translated into Dutch, Czech and Spanish, and her Radio 4 adaptation won a Mental Health in the Media award. Her second book of non-fiction, Two in a Boat: A Marital Voyage (Fourth Estate, 2005) was published in both the UK and the US.