Friday, June 29, 2007

Review: The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart

"Mithras, Apollo, Arthur, Christ-call him what you will," I said. "What does it matter what men call the light? It is the same light, and men must live by it or die." (from Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart) The King Arthur legend inspires a lot of Fantasy authors to tell the story with their unique voices. One of the most fascinating characters of the legend is Merlin. Author Mary Stewart tells his story in her Historical fiction trilogy with Fantasy elements. She provides a story full of detail, vivid images and realistic characters in a time far from our own. Using historical details blended with Arthurian legend, Mary Stewart creates the unforgettable life of Merlin.

The Crystal Cave is the first book in the trilogy. Readers meet Merlin at the age of five living in his grandfather's household with his mother. The Roman Empire has left Britain to its own resources. Merlin faces being an outcast as his powers begin to manifest. Eventually he leaves to find his father after his teacher is killed. While working for his father Ambrosius, Merlin helps defeat the High King Vortigern by using his powers to fortell the future. The book continues the story of his young life until the conception of Arthur. Readers see a Merlin driven by forces to bring about a future no matter the cost.

The second book is The Hollow HIlls. It picks up with Merlin taking care of Arthur, teaching him and dealing with Uther Pendragon. When Arthur is older, Merlin helps him attain the throne by setting the sword Caliburn in the stone. Ms. Stewart uses historical information about life in that period to add a realistic edge to this book too. Merlin tries to prevent Aruthur from commiting incest and conceiving his doom of Mordred. It ends with Merlin in middle age and Arthur as High King.

The last book is The Last Enchantment. In this book, readers learn of Merlin's last years before he disappears from the legend. Merlin continues to advise Arthur, but fails in preventing the massacre of babies in Arthur's attempt to eliminate Mordred. He travels around Britain to get information for the king. Merlin meets Nimue as a young girl and falls in love. He accepts his fate in her love. We see an old Merlin waiting for Arthur to come visit him outside his crystal cave in Wales before the end.

The "Merlin" trilogy by Mary Stewart is an entertaining, imaginative story of the life of Merlin. Ms. Stewart uses historical details, vivid images and Fantasy elements to give readers a memorable character of Merlin and realistic portrayal of Britain of that age. Her writing is crisp, clean and descriptive, which brings the story to life. The books are available separately or all three in one volume. Readers will enjoy the journey through Merlin's life.

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