Fifth century Britain is a country of chaos and division after the Roman withdrawal. This is the world of young Merlin, the illegitimate child of a South Wales princess who will not reveal to her son his father's true identity. Yet Merlin is an extraordinary child, aware at the earliest age that he possesses a great natural gift - the Sight. ...
Fifth century Britain is a country of chaos and division after the Roman withdrawal. This is the world of young Merlin, the illegitimate child of a South Wales princess who will not reveal to her son his father's true identity. Yet Merlin is an extraordinary child, aware at the earliest age that he possesses a great natural gift - the Sight. Against a background of invasion and imprisonment, wars and conquest, Merlin emerges into manhood, and accepts his dramatic role in the New Beginning - the coming of King Arthur.
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The first volume of Lady Stewart's Arthurian saga. Merlin has always been a favourite from my childhood study of myths and legends, but for the first time under Stewart's inspired treatment, he really comes to life as a very plausible historical figure. I like the way his celebrated ?magic? is presented as the likely product of a highly intelligent and accomplished man with a deep understanding of human nature and the daring to manipulate circumstances to suit the simple reasoning of the masses. This narrative creates an historically accurate and highly probable story out of all the sketchy and contradictory accounts that have reached us. Stewart used her in-depth knowledge of the period and scrupulous research into the available historical sources to weave a complex but coherent tapestry that reads like a thriller. It never fails to amaze me how rich and detailed the story is and how completely it draws me in. I can taste the food and feel the texture of fabrics and wet grass. I can follow the historical events and their significance without feeling lectured to. As usual, the sense of place and human perspective are just right.
You don't need to be a history buff to get carried away by the beautifully-paced narrative, with enough realism to make it vivid but a deft hand with the guts and gore element inherent in a story of war and power struggles in some of Britain's darkest times. Stewart is justly famous for her strong character development and here we find an unusually rich cast: Ambrosius, Uther, Cerdic and Cadal (among many others) become real people with emotions and desires we can understand. Even the villains are painted with the full palette of nuances, light and shadow. Definitely one to read over and over again with undiminished enchantment.
Feb 4, 2009
One of my Favorites
This book is well-written and thoroughly enjoyable. I would recommend it to anyone, it is timeless. I go back and re-read it about once a year.
Nov 20, 2008
Mary Stewart does a fabulous job of bringing to life the legend of Arthur through the narration of Merlin as he tells of his life. This book is one of my all time favorites. Stewart's imagination and creativity make this book intriguing and gripping. Both my sister and I flew through it. I would not recommend it for children under 16, as there are some sexual references, but it also is not lewd or offensive so I did not have a problem with it. You will love this book!
Apr 19, 2008
A Splendid Reimagining
Western Civilization, particularly that descended from the Brits, will never lose its fascination with the Arthurian legend, hence the appeal of Mary Stewart's "The Crystal Cave." Within these pages is Dark Age Britain and Wales, come to squalid life. The story centers on the young bastard son of the Princess of Wales, Myrddin Emrys, or Merlin, as the centuries have come to know him. Here he is, a child coming into his own, learning the ways around his magic and his wits. I really appreciate how Stewart depicts magic in this book; it isn't some external force which Merlin must learn to break to his will, rather it is an internal flow that is naturally insinuated into Merlin's knowledge and character. This book is a captivating image of the time in Britain when Christianity and Paganism were still uneasily coexisting, neither attempting to violently overthrow the other. Stewart's writing is full of delicate imagery and a clearly defined plot that jogs along quite quickly. I highly recommend this to those who love fantasy and to those who are interested in Arthurian legend. Those who like historical fiction should be aware that the author firmly acknowledges using that incredibly unhistorical source, "History of the Kings of Britain," by Geoffrey of Monmouth, which is near complete fiction, but provided the source for Malory's "Morte d'Arthur." While many details of what life was like in those times are as accurate as possible, the events of the plot are based on the established legend, not on recorded history.
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