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The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart

Arthurian legend is a favorite subject of mine.  I took a class on it close to three years ago and having the history has made all subsequent reading much more enjoyable.  This book is the first in a trilogy which I think is about Merlin.  This book certainly is.  It goes into his childhood and his background as the bastard of a Welsh princess, Niniane, who will tell no one who his father is.  Merlin discovers that he has some magical skills as well as foresight occasionally, and for these reasons he is almost never afraid because he knows that it is not yet his time to die.  Eventually, he is ostracized from his home and joins the Roman king of Britain, Ambrosius, as he goes to conquer the proud tyrant Vortigern.

I like that Stewart tried vaguely to fit this into the confines of history while making it fantasy.  Makes it a bit more interesting, although if anyone actually believes that the Saxons could muster an army of thirty thousand, I’m sorry, it just didn’t happen.  I didn’t let that affect me too much, though, as I tried to consider this primarily a work of fantasy, which it really is.  Magic happens and often around Merlin, and sometimes he prophesizes without knowing what he’s saying, which adds some small amounts of mystery.  The plot is interesting and keeps moving, no dull moments that I noticed.  Stewart’s writing is serviceable for the tale she’s telling.  You can also see the beginnings of the proper Arthurian legend by the end, which makes me look forward to the next book so that I can continue the story.

After reading this book, I definitely wanted to read the next one, and I’ve grown very attached to Merlin.  Even though he is a bit detached as a person from most of the other characters, watching him grow up has fostered that feeling in me at least.  I’ll be looking for the rest of the trilogy. Buy this book on Amazon.

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