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The Crystal Cave (Arthurian Saga #1)

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  27,355 ratings  ·  972 reviews
Initially published in 1970, Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave has been spellbinding readers & converting them into serious Arthurian buffs ever since. The first in a series of four books, this novel focuses on the early life of Merlin the magician, & the political developments of 5th-century Britain. Not for the fainthearted, this verbose text pays careful attention ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 12th 1982 by Fawcett (Greenwich) (first published 1970)
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I actually read this book first when I was 11 or 12 and would have rated it a 5 with that self. When I was a girl I was lucky enough to be a tomboy and have male figures in my life who taught me the things I would later realize were traditionally "guy stuff". I remembered this book with a mystical fondness because I remember absolutely identifying with the character of Merlin and cast myself in the role of boy adventurer.

Unfortunately, I have to now temper that literal reading with things I am a
Dec 13, 2008 Jackie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: King Arthur enthusiasts
One of the best Authurian saga I've ever read.
It felt as if I were there watching the events unfold before my eyes.
Aug 16, 2007 Savannah rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fantasy lovers, Historial fiction lovers, historians on vacation, arthur nuts
Shelves: majorinfluences
I love Mary Stewart's work. She always mixes the right amount of supernatural and realism, and here is no exception.

Throw out your previous ideas of Merlin, Arthur, and Magic. Here's something a little more Organic. In her Arthurian Saga, Stewart mixes historical figures with figures of myth in a way that is pleasing to the historian's eye. I don't mean in a true historically accurate sense, but in a way that allows you to fall into the world. Details of what was left behind from Roman Rule in
It's hard to put my finger on what bothered me about The Crystal Cave. On the surface, it's something I should love: other people whose taste I trust loved it, and tore through it; it deals with Merlin, whose life I'm interested in; it's set in Wales; I enjoy elaborations on less explored facets of the legends... But somehow, it just took me far too long to get through it, and I happily abandoned it for whatever else looked interesting, given half a chance.

Merlin's voice never quite felt real to
There's still a lot about The Crystal Cave that bothers me, but I think, on balance, I liked it better now than I did the first time I read it. As I've said, it's Misogynistic Merlin, which is my least favourite flavour -- you have some clear-headed, quick-thinking, powerful women, but then you have lines like this: "Duchess and slut alike, they need not even study to deceive." And the whole bit about weak female magic and Merlin needing to be a virgin and blahblahblah. Could definitely have don ...more
The first, and one of the very few, books that has ever reconciled me to Arthurian myth. After slogging through hideous Victorian sentimental priggishness everywhere else, this is a breath of fresh and magical air into a tired story.
I first read this book a long time ago because I've always loved Arthurian stories. After so long, I had forgotten most of it, so I was happy to re read it and found myself enjoying the tale all over again.

The time is after the Romans have left Britain, and England is suffering because it's been broken up into several small kingdoms ruled by many local leaders and with a High King to hold them all together. The Saxon threat is eminent and they are encamped on the shores of the Island ready to do

With all the variety of Arthurian tales and re-imaginings one must write a strong novel to stand out above the rest. A prime example of this is how The Once and Future King utilises the mythology to discuss morality and the reality of modern life. However, The Crystal Cave here neither particularly stands out nor provides a fascinating examination of an idea or ideal. Instead it stands as a dull, slow moving novel which blurs into the background of other versions of Merlin and Arthur.

The one thi
I first read this back in the 70's & it was a favorite. Merlin tells his story from his boyhood. Read by Stephen Thorne, it's even better.

Merlin tells this tale in his old age, but usually the story moves along as if it were in the present. I liked that perspective, but it means you do have to listen closely at times. He glosses over much of his 'magic' at times, explains it at others, & that generally makes for a sense of mystery that would have otherwise have been lacking in a more st
Sarah Ryburn
My mother introduced me to these books. I'm a fool for Arthurian legend, wrote a research paper on "Celtic roots of Arthurian legend" in high school-–honestly, one must ask how does an eleventh grader come up with such a topic? Perhaps I had help. Perhaps I must face the fact that I'm a total lit dweeb...

Back to the topic, Mary Stewart's Arthur legend retold. From Merlin's perspective. He's the protagonist. He's the central figure of the saga as well as its narrator, and he, rather than Arthur,
For years I'd heard my mother talk of Mary Stewart. But it took me this long to finally pick one of her books up (I was admittedly bored and this was at hand) and read...and read...and read. I wish I'd read her stuff before. But, better late than never, they always say!

The book I happened to pick up was the first of her Merlin trilogy - The Crystal Cave.

Written from the perpective of the legendary Merlin, it traces his young life up to the point when he is instrumental in playing a part in Arthu
Crossposted from my blog

2 Stars

I’ve spoken about my love of all things Arthurian before, so I was really expecting to enjoy this book. All the ingredients are there – it’s centered on a character I normally like, on events that are often just skated over as prologue, and grounded in more unique ‘realistic’ Dark Age Britain than the typical ‘castles and knights’ setting. It was also pretty popular back in its day. Alas, I learn, yet again, that popularity often has little to do with quality. It’s
Suzie Quint
I love this book. The Arthurian legend from Merlin's perspective. He was always the most interesting character of the legend anyway. Stewart takes him from being "the son of no man" and gives him an interesting childhood. I couldn't help but feel for his vulnerability. The mystery surrounding who Merlin was still intrigues.
Lindsey Sablowski
This book is fantastic. Mary Stewart obviously took the time to go through with a lot of researching of legends and so forth to form this saga. I never imagined there would be a book about King Arthur where I could be dying to know more. This saga is the reason I fell more in love with the stories of Camelot. Stewart brings forth a cast of familiar characters, and the adventure is very exciting. The story is told from Merlin's point of view, though in one of the stories the POV changes over. You ...more
Mark ~ Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews
I really enjoyed the first book in this Arthur quadrilogy and is definitely shaping up to be one of the better Arthur tales I have read.

This first book deals with the life of Merlin from a child to manhood, finding out about his parentage up until he accompanies and arranges the tryst between King Uther Pendragon and Lady Ygraine. What I really liked about this telling is that Merlin as a character was stripped of all his Disney style hocus-pocus. Instead he was portrayed as someone who was int
Maggie K
What a great classic! I have been meaning to read this for forever, it seems like, and am so glad I finally did.
This is the story of young Merlin. His early life, how he came into his power, and his part in the birth of Arthur Pendragon. The story was wonderful, the writing heavy on description but not overly so. A very enjoyable read!
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
I read this for an 8th grade English oral book report. It was a great story, and the teacher was amazed that I was able to get explain the complicated plot to everyone so that they could understand it. I never went on to read the other 2 books in the series. I should reread this and then dig out the other two...
Alas, The Crystal Cave has lost the glamour that it had exercised over my mind since I first read it when I was around 12 or 13. I can remember possessing the Science Fiction Book Club edition, one of the first books I (ahem…mom) bought after joining the club, and I remember being enthralled by the story of Merlin’s early life and the telling of Arthur’s story from a mostly historical, nonfastastical point of view.

And I still enjoyed reading it this time. I recalled many scenes from my first rea
A wonderful mix of myth, history, romance, fiction, adventure, magic, and New York Times Best Seller, Mary Stewart’s tale of Merlin and his early years to Arthur’s conception has crept its way to the top of my list. Her writing sucks you in like a black hole and sends you to another time and world altogether. No more sitting in that comfortable chair by the fire, it’s onto the hills, castles, and battlefields of ancient Wales and Ireland! Each page seems to come alive as her words form the perfe ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
First in her famous Merlin series. It's funny -- somehow I managed to miss this one until now, though I had a pretty solid grounding in genre classics. So I'm reading this and it's fine, whatever, interesting here and there, but mostly old hat. Until I realize that actually this is the prototype on which so much of the current canon is based, and from that lens it's really quite fascinating. I think my favorite element thus far is when she toys with this question of greatness. Merlin, after all, ...more
I absolutely loved this book, but I did read it when I was a lot younger. I remember not being able to put them down, and I think I even re-read them several times. I wanted to add these to my Goodreads shelf because I want to re-read them soon and see if I enjoy them as much as an adult.
Jenna St Hilaire
Stewart's tale of Wales-in-the-time-of-Merlin is vivid and sensory and three-dimensional, depicted in some of the better prose I've come across in epic fantasy—as I would have expected from the author of The Moon-Spinners. It's an Arthurian retelling, narrated by Merlin himself, but more fantastic than historical; it sources Geoffrey of Monmouth, who, the author admits, is a great storyteller and a lousy historian. On the other hand, it posits Merlin as more frequently a good scientist than a ma ...more
I wish I could give this 3.5 stars. This was an interesting take on the early life of Merlin and the origins of Arthur. I appreciate Stewart's lovely descriptions of the scenery and the realism she gave to such a magical and mythical story. Elements of this book that I considered to be flaws might have had to do with the time in which it was written, and the way popular storytelling has changed somewhat. For me, the biggest flaw was the lack of a structured plot moving all the way through the bo ...more
The body of Arthurian myths has been a staple of fantasy, since the genre's earliest beginnings. Everyone has read at least one Arthurian book or seen Disney's Sword in the Stone and some of the genre's best known tropes can be traced back to the legend of the once and future king. Stewart takes a novel approach to the Arthur legend, by focusing on Merlin. While not the first to do so, her Merlin trilogy, which was published from 1970 onwards, was the first modern story to have Merlin as its mai ...more
There's a reason this book has been well-regarded for nearly 40 years. It's a great book.

This series tells the story of Merlin, the legendary magician who helped King Arthur bring a new age of unity and peace to a war-torn, (probably) Dark Age Britain. Beginning at the beginning, readers get the unusual perspective of seeing the imposing Merlin as an outcast child named Myrddin Emrys, the bastard son of a Welsh princess and a father she refuses to name. The King and other members of the court d
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Renna Shesso
If Merlin wrote an autobiography... Mary Stewart writes The Crystal Cave in the first-person, in Merlin's voice. This, the first book in her Arthurian Saga trilogy, focuses on Merlin as a child and young man, with questions of his own identity and his calling to magic and power. Her ability to capture that sense of uncertainty and wonder through his young eyes is enthralling. For those engaged in their own metaphysical studies, there's a recognition of how that quest FEELS.

Stewart is a strong a
Barbara ★
I've always liked anything to do with Arthur Pendragon, Camelot and Merlin so when I saw this book, I snapped it up. Of course, it's taken me years to pull it off the shelf and actually read it. God knows why. This is Merlin's story not Arthur's and is basically a coming of age tale of Merlin's early learnings of trickery instead of magic itself. Honestly I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to enjoy this series starter which actually ends with Arthur's beginning. Hmm I wonder what The Hollow H ...more
Smith Barney
Merlin..King Arthur. Legend. the Queen of historical-mystical realms..and timeless writer of epic proportions..Lady Mary Stewart.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • The Skystone (Camulod Chronicles, #1)
  • Child of the Northern Spring (Guinevere, #1)
  • The Pendragon
  • Firelord (Firelord, #1)
  • Hawk of May
  • The Book of Merlyn (The Once and Future King, #5)
  • Queen of Camelot
  • Guinevere (Guinevere, #1)
  • Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle #1)
  • Sword at Sunset
  • The Kingmaking (Pendragon's Banner Trilogy, #1)
  • Sons of Avalon: Merlin's Prophecy
  • The Road to Avalon (Dark Ages of Britain, #1)
  • The Idylls of the Queen: A Tale of Queen Guenevere
  • Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Lady Mary Stewart was a popular English novelist, and taught at the school of John Norquay elementary for 30 to 35 years.

She was one of the most widely read fiction writers of our time. The author of twenty novels, a volume of poetry, and three books for young readers, she
More about Mary Stewart...
The Hollow Hills (Arthurian Saga, #2) The Last Enchantment (Arthurian Saga, #3) The Wicked Day (Arthurian Saga, #4) Nine Coaches Waiting The Moonspinners

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“... the gods only go with you if you put yourself in their path. And that takes courage.” 21 likes
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