With the great sword Caliburn in his hand and Merlin the enchanter at his side, Arthur comes out of hiding to claim the crown he was born to wear. ...Show synopsisWith the great sword Caliburn in his hand and Merlin the enchanter at his side, Arthur comes out of hiding to claim the crown he was born to wear. Merlin, Arthur's protector, sees the glories and horrors that await the new king ...and to save him Merlin musters all his power to weave one last enchantment. He is showing signs of age and he gradually realises he is losing his powers of prophecy and clairvoyance to a younger generation. But he is able to accept this because he knows that they will be at the service of his beloved monarch whose fabled victories, marriage and the building of Camelot shine through these pages.Hide synopsis
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The third book of Mary Stewart's Arthurian saga. As in the previous two volumes, Merlin is the narrator, picking up the story where ?The Hollow Hills? left off, on the night of the day Arthur was proclaimed High King of Britain at the ripe old age of fourteen. Mary Stewart crafted each book as a stand-alone (although, clearly, it's best to read them in sequence) and so the first few pages contain a recap of the events that preceded the coronation. This makes the first chapter a little awkward but soon the action takes off and we are swept along into another 500 pages of fascinating reconstruction of the days of Arthur, Merlin and Camelot.
As in the earlier books, we get superb descriptions of places and events, in-depth character development done with honesty but also with a loving acceptance of human nature, terrific pacing, interspersing lots of action with contemplative passages and that quintessential thing that Mary Stewart does so well of educating without patronising. Much as I loved ?The Crystal Cave? and ?The Hollow Hills?, I feel that this book is even stronger as it deals with Merlin's decline and his ambivalence about the fulfilment of his life mission. Despite his stated ?contentment?, the ending is very sad.
Quite apart from the quality of the narrative and the elegance with which some truly gruesome scenes are handled, the great achievement of this saga is that it successfully deconstructs the rather unlikely elements of the Arthurian legend and reassembles them into a believable and cohesive version of what really could have happened. In particular, the treatment of Guinevere's abduction is a stroke of genius. Perhaps less convincing is the apprenticeship of Ninian/NimuŽ but this is where an acceptance of the magical element is required and, given that so much of the fantastical has been explained in human terms, I was happy to suspend belief and go with the flow.
I have just finished re-reading this book, taking my time over it, which allowed me to find so much that I had missed in my previous page-turning frenzy. This is Stewart's hallmark: her books work on different levels, as fast-moving adventures on first reading but offering satisfying depth on subsequent visits. I can't think of a better quality in a book.
This conclusion to Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy is every bit as well-written and gripping as the first two (It is my understanding that there is a fourth book, but that it is from the point of view of Mordred, rather than Merlin).
In "The Last Enchantment," Merlin experiences the erratic wane of his days of power. Since he has achieved what his gods have willed for him in setting Arthur safely upon the throne, he knows that his part to play is in its twilight. And though his power comes and goes, the long span of his days of glory have accrued him the respect of Arthur and his subjects, as well as the undying enmity of Arthur's enemies.
In this installment we see the famous events of Arthur's adulthood: Camelot, Guinevere, The Lady of the Lake, etc. Mary Stewart's gift, however, is that she writes these people and events as if they belong to her alone. It is only after reading a certain passage that I would realize she had just set up a major legendary plot-point. She writes her characters as real people with histories and full personalities, not as figments of legend. I think Stewart may have ruined me for any other interpretation of Arthurian legend. This series is THAT good. Her period and legend research is spot-on, and obviously informs the richness of detail with which she infuses her story.
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