Bull Vaulter

Alena of the Isle of Green

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
410 Pages
Reviewed on 03/19/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Bull Vaulter: Alena of the Isle of Green is a work of fiction in the historical fiction, mythology, and spirituality subgenres. It is suitable for the general adult reading audience. Penned by author Barbara Tieken, this captivating novel is set in 2100 B.C.E. and it brings together plot strands centered around Women's Goddess Spirituality practiced in ancient Crete and Santorini. Inspired by the real-life archeological findings of many historical scholars, the narrative follows Alena, a famed Bull Vaulter from Keft, as she embarks on a journey to the Peloponnesus. Along the way, she encounters the Kurgan warrior Jahal, studies with healers, and discovers her special talents bestowed by the Goddess. Through vivid descriptions and contrasting cultures of the Bronze Age, Alena's journey unfolds as she strives to fulfill her destined path.

Author Barbara Tieken has crafted a work that skillfully blends historical research with imagination, creating a rich tapestry of culture, spirituality, and adventure. The novel's protagonist, Alena, is a compelling character brought to life with close narrative skill, providing a realistic and natural exploration of themes of destiny, empowerment, and self-discovery through her eyes. The vivid descriptions of Bronze Age life are penned with a multisensory approach that takes one beyond the cinematic, transporting the reader and fully immersing them in a distant yet familiar world. This also allows for an immersive experience into the ancient world of Crete and Santorini, with atmospheric description to perfectly match the different moods of toil, discovery, and spiritual success. Through Tieken's well-paced storytelling, the reader gains historical insights that are very naturally woven into the plot, while being swept up in Alena's exhilarating quest and the exciting twists that she finds herself facing. Overall, Bull Vaulter is a captivating blend of mythology and adventure that keeps the reader engaged from start to finish, and I would highly recommend it to fans of compelling historical fiction.

Philip Zozzaro

Alena is a bull vaulter and with that ability comes great responsibility. Bull vaulters are held in high regard throughout their native lands. The importance of keeping vows is paramount. An attack from a rival kingdom interrupts a showcasing of Alena’s potential. Soon, the unconscious Alena is in the custody of the magician Jahal. Jahal begins to tend to her injuries but becomes enamored with the young woman. Jahal is soon attacked by rival warrior Gabol who proceeds to assault Alena. A wounded Jahal manages to kill Gabol before passing out. Alena slowly recuperates with an intense healing ritual but awakens with little memory of her trauma. Upon meeting Jahal, a spark is ignited and Alena is immersed in an intense relationship with a secret or two underneath the surface that could quickly destroy the pair.

Bull Vaulter is an engrossing love story brimming with sensuality from start to finish. Alena is a precocious young woman set to make a mark in her world as a pacifier of an untamed creature. Her desire to succeed in her calling is equally matched by her desire for love. Jahal comes from a kingdom where much is expected from family, but he is often ridiculed by his fellow countrymen. Whereas Alena’s skills are physical, Jahal’s tend to be more metaphysical. The initial actions taken by Jahal are not chivalrous, but as his relationship with Alena evolves so does his character. Alena distinguishes herself as a strong presence throughout the narrative with her fortitude, protective instincts, and her heart. Barbara Tieken has penned a wonderful novel examining love, duty, and family that is worthwhile reading.

Paul Zietsman

Barbara Tieken's Bull Vaulter is an intriguing tale of adventure, passion, and goddess worship that is set in 2100 B.C.E. on the Aegean island of Keft (ancient Crete) and the Aegean peninsula. We meet the bull vaulter Alena of Keft and the warrior Jahal, whom Alena at first fondly refers to as Jahal from the plains. They fall deeply in love, but they come from different worlds. Keft is an island of peace and tranquility, and the land brings forth great harvests for which the islanders praise and give thanks to the Mother Goddess. Jahal, on the other hand, comes from a land of warriors who wage war on foreign territories to expand their riches and terrain. Can their love weather the magnitude of the storms in their path, and will Jahal's heart further soften to appreciate the harmony of Alena's people?
Featuring eloquent and flowing writing, Bull Vaulter: Alena of the Isle of Green is a multifaceted novel that is a blend of mystery, suspense, and romance. The plot is extremely well crafted, and Barbara Tieken left me in constant wonder and suspense. I was intrigued by the customs practiced in those ancient times, especially the island's tradition of goddess worship and its accompanying rites. As I have been a practitioner of paganism myself, it has awakened in me a new desire to seek out spirituality and piety. There are scenes of sexual assault as well as passionate lovemaking. The latter is depicted in a way that can only be described as invigorating. Romance, drama, untold secrets, and strong personalities are the winning ingredients in this expertly written novel.

Saifunnissa Hassam

Barbara Tieken’s Bull Vaulter: Alena of the Isle of Green is a spell-binding historical novel set in the Bronze Age in 2100 B.C.E. on the island of Keft (ancient Crete) and the Greek Peloponnesus peninsula. The novel is best suited to mature readers. Well-researched and vividly narrated, the story is complex, bringing together Women's Goddess Spirituality, the drama of interpersonal relationships, romance, and adventure. Alena is 14, a famous bull vaulter, or bull dancer from Keft. She and other bull vaulters are on the Peloponnesus peninsula for their performance at the Harvest Festival. Their performance is abruptly cut short by a chain of catastrophic events. Alena’s life journey takes unexpected turns, taking her beyond her bull vaulting days. Alena faces difficult challenges and choices as her life becomes intertwined with others. The story twists and turns and the suspense builds to the very end.

Compelling and captivating, I particularly enjoyed Bull Vaulter for its remarkable characters and the superb world-building of the Aegean Sea cultures in the Bronze Age. I liked the character development of Alena, the central character in the story. As one of the best bull vaulters in Keft, she has the courage, grace, vigor, and discipline to perform feats of daring. When her life journey twists and turns, I liked how these character traits and experiences pave the way for even more dangerous journeys, encompassing her inner spiritual self and her outer material life. The story gained great depth through the exceptional characters whose lives intertwine with Alena’s. I liked how the characters spring to life against the backdrop of the Aegean Sea cultures. Aesclevius, a renowned healer given unique healing gifts by the Great Goddess, becomes Alena’s teacher and guide. Aesclevius’ wife Myra, a gifted herbalist, becomes a teacher and guide for Alena and Jahal, a young Kurgan warrior from the lands far north of Crete and Greece. A fantastic read, Barbara Tieken’s Bull Vaulter is a multifaceted novel with strong characters, inner transformative journeys, the complexities of human relationships, duty, romance, and love.

Grant Leishman

Bull Vaulter: Alena of the Isle of Green by Barbara Tieken is a superbly crafted novel set in the ancient Mediterranean around four thousand years ago. Alena is a beautiful young girl who, although originally from the Isle of Green (Keft – ancient Crete), traveled to Peloponnesus where she trained to become one of the most revered performers of this culture – a Bull Vaulter. As she and her first love Dorion prepare for the almost impossible feat of the double bull vault, disaster strikes this peaceful, quiet city. Raiders from the north invade their sanctuary, causing havoc and mayhem, including kidnapping Alena and her beloved Dorion. When the Kurgan warrior Jahal sets his sights on Alena, her life changes forever and she is forced very quickly to realize that not everything in this world is as wonderful and peaceful as their idyllic life to date taught her to expect. Set in a matriarchal society where the Goddess is the supreme ruler of life, this society must come to terms with the outside world where the role of women is viewed differently from theirs. In the mysticism and magic of the era, Alena and Jahal must somehow find their correct paths in this confusing maelstrom.

Bull Vaulter is a superb story of its time. Author Barbara Tieken has created a wonderfully evocative environment where women are revered, valued, and most importantly acknowledged as equals. The clash between the values of Alena’s society and those of the patriarchal northern people is undoubtedly a highlight. Jahal, with a northern chief as his father and a mother who taught him the ways of the Goddess and was ultimately killed by the northern priests for her beliefs, is in a unique position. He is torn between his warrior upbringing and the gentleness and beauty of Alena and her healing culture. Alena is a remarkable character who evokes sympathy and pride. It is wonderful to watch her development from a gentle, shy girl to a woman of spirit who is determined to defend to her last breath those she loves and cares for. The author’s prose is lyrical and at times almost poetical. The relationships between Alena, her two teachers Aesclevius and Myra, as well as her friend Aneth, are the heart and soul of the story. Their support and wisdom are what help Alena to grow into the powerful, strong, independent woman she ultimately became. I appreciated the mysticism inherent in Alena’s culture and found her dream sequences particularly evocative. This is a wonderful story that I enjoyed immensely. I can highly recommend this read.