May 2024
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The Hollow Hills, Mary Stewart

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.


3 comments to The Hollow Hills, Mary Stewart

  • Wow, another Arthurian fan! What other variations on the legend have you read? The Merlin trilogy is one of my favorites.

  • Meghan

    I’ve read a ton of Arthurian fiction – I’ve read the original Welsh poems, excerpts from various chronicles, the work of Chretien de Troyes, Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (I took a class on Arthurian lit), and some modern stuff – The Once and Future King and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry are the only ones that spring to mind just now, but I have plenty of others. I’ve got the rest of this series, the beginnings of Lawhead’s cycle, and the first of that Jack Whyte series on my TBR mountain. Also planning on reading Bernard Cornwell’s trilogy once I get the first one.

    Assuming you’ll check back to this comment, what else have you read? Anything particularly good that I really, really need to read?

  • I’ve read Le Morte, Idylls, the first two Chretien poems (I have all 5 but I find it hard to motivate myself to read poetry these days). I’ve read Lawhead, but ironically my favorite book of that series is Avalon, which is the return of King Arthur. Cornwell’s series is eh, I enjoyed Jack Whyte, but it’s almost more Ancient Rome than Arthurian, so if you like that you’ll probably like those. I really enjoyed The Return of Merlin by Deepak Chopra (who knew?) and The Dark is Rising series (childrens books, but they’re incredibly well written and are what got me into reading about King Arthur in the first place!) It’s always nice to meet another Arthurian fan!