At the end of The Crystal Cave, Merlin has succeeded in getting Uther and Ygraine to conceive a child at the correct time. In The Hollow Hills, Arthur is born and immediately hidden away to protect him in case he is required to become the king. Merlin already knows that he will, and so Arthur’s childhood is spent in training to become a knight and thus a king, even though he is ignorant of his origins.
This book went a bit too slowly for my tastes. Merlin spends a lot of time elsewhere, gazing in on Arthur from afar. As a consequence, a lot of it wasn’t particularly exciting and didn’t become so until Arthur was about 11, when he and Merlin get acquainted for the first time. It’s much more interesting to watch Arthur grow through Merlin’s eyes rather than reading pages and pages about Merlin’s travels. Stewart’s writing isn’t quite good enough to make it entertaining.
I did enjoy the relationship between Arthur and Merlin and Arthur’s believable growth into adulthood. It was nice to see the legend come together through different means, and put into a historical context that I hadn’t encountered in Arthurian fiction previously. I think Stewart did a decent job of making it conceivable – at least in this book she doesn’t call on armies of thirty thousand. Perhaps she did some research in between.
I’m not sure I’d recommend this series to anyone who isn’t interested in the Arthurian legend. I don’t think it stands on its own very well, but I like to read different variations of the legend, so it was a pleasurable read for me. Buy this book on Amazon.