Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy (Arthurian Saga, #1-3)
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Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy (Arthurian Saga #1-3)

4.33 of 5 stars 4.33  ·  rating details  ·  2,582 ratings  ·  121 reviews
The prophetic voice of Merlin, the mysterious enchanter of Arthurian legend, has completed his story. Written over a period of ten years, Mary Stewart's three best-selling novels now stand together in one volume - the finest work of her distinguished career.

Hers is the most extended portrait in all literature in this compelling figure of Dark Age myth and history. Merlin,

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Hardcover, 928 pages
Published September 7th 2004 by Harper Voyager (first published January 1st 1978)
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The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer BradleyThe Once and Future King by T.H. WhiteMary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy by Mary StewartLe Morte d'Arthur by Thomas MaloryThe Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
Best Arthurian Fiction
3rd out of 311 books — 1,042 voters
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer BradleyThe Once and Future King by T.H. WhiteMary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy by Mary StewartLe Morte d'Arthur by Thomas MaloryThe Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
The Arthurian Legend Retold
3rd out of 355 books — 574 voters


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J Leigh Bralick
Besides the Lord of the Rings, this was probably the first real fantasy trilogy that I read. I've gone back and read it many times since then, and I think it will always be one of my standards for excellent fantasy.

There's something about Mary Stewart's Merlin that is just captivating. He's flawed, enigmatic, strong, admirable, calculating, naive, and wonderfully human. I confess I've always been a little in love with him. Mary Stewart makes his growth from child to the wise old Merlin so believ...more
Misfit
It's got to be a good 25-30 years since I read these three books, and were just as enjoyable now as they were then. Stuart has a lovely way of describing a scene, the land and the people. If you purchased the trilogy in one book, just remember that they were originally three separate books. I found that while I read it as one book this time, there were redundancies and/or things that I would have expected to be cut from one large novel, but necessary additions in three separate novels. I found m...more
Kyleigh
A fascinating spin on the same old King Arthur story. Stewart focuses on Merlin as the main character in this series, starting with his young years as a bastard and continuing through his demise shortly into Arthur's reign. Stewart's strength was in bringing these so well-known characters to life and giving them depth. Her weakness was incredibly slow pacing. Yes, we knew what was going to happen, but that doesn't make the story completely unimportant. Foreshadowing was well-used, between Merlin...more
Bill
This series puts a very touching, very human face to the ancient Merlin story, as the legendary magician faces the trials of discovering and developing his own power, and later as he grooms the young Arthur Pendragon to assume the throne and unite a kingdom after the chaos following the fall of the Roman Empire. The story traces Merlin's journey from boyhood through the height of his reknown, and even into his twilight years as he settles into 'retirement', and discovers that it is never too lat...more
Tara Lynn Tanner
It took me some time to get through this trilogy (only a little because I kept looking for my red pen to mark mistakes in this edition), but mostly because it was very episodic and covered such a long time period following Merlin from when he was a young boy until he died. I loved the story- appreciated the historical aspects- and was thrilled by the twists and turns of the plot.

Favorite passage:
It may perhaps seem strange that a prophet who had seen Arthur's crowning so plain and clear and ri...more
Walter Conner
I first read this series many years ago, including the sequel, The Wicked Day in which the Arthurian legend comes full-circle with the story of Arthur's bastard son Mordred. I found her approach to the legend very fascinating. I have since reread them at least twice (I have the hardbound set), and enjoyed them immensely each time.

Some reviewers have noted the "slow" pacing of these novels, and they do, indeed, move more slowly than many modern readers prefer. For me, however, Mary Stewart's incr...more
Jessica
I really enjoyed this series. Why? I enjoyed that many readers, young and old, could find this an enjoyable series. It also is something that one would enjoy even though they typically do not read science fiction/fantasy. Having said that, I love this genre and was not disappointed. The writing was rich with detail and yet not weighted down. I also felt that the writer had tried to research the era and attributes as far as possible and then took the liberty of writing a fictious work that could...more
Monica Davis
By far one of the best books I have ever read. 900+ pages, continually flowing and engaging. Using the title character, Merlin, as her narrator, Mary Stewart is masterful in her storytelling...wonderfully descriptive; drawing on the reader's senses to experience the smells, tastes, sights, sounds, and touch of this fantastic tale. A wonderful backstory to the usual focus, much happens before Camelot is introduced to us (700 pages into the book). Highly recommend this thoroughly enjoyable read.
Rosanne
And so I finally finish the Merlin tale. It was well worth the time. It only felt a little slow and sludgy at the last book with tales of Arthur taking center stage. Really enjoyed reading about the legend of Merlin.
Paparas
This starts out interesting but deteriorates fast. The first novel is a passable re-telling of the Legend, which Stewart summarizes in the epilogue. The second book is inferior and pretty tedious. The third book is so mind-numbingly boring, I gave up on it half-way through, abandoning my plans to read the 4th and 5th novels after reading the initial trilogy.

This book is a counterargument to all those people harping on about how long Robert Jordan's descriptions were in "Wheel of Time". A 10page...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
This is one of my favorite books, consisting of three novels that follow the Arthurian legend through the eyes of Merlin. The first novel, The Crystal Cave was assigned to me in high school, as was Mary Renault's story about Theseus, The Bull from the Sea--what Renault did for Ancient Greece, Mary Stewart did for Dark Age Britain. This has been described as fantasy, and there are touches of that, but much of Merlin's magic is rationalized--this is more historical fiction than fantasy, and as suc...more
Jacob
This was a really good interpretation of the King Arthur legend, told from the perspective of Merlin. It's fun to see the characters come into the story, remember what the legends said about them, and see how Mary Stewart casts them. Except it took me forever to realize that Bedwyr is a more accurate version of the name Bedivere, and I am embarrassed because he is one of my favorite characters in the legend.

In any case, the writing is good and the events are interesting. Merlin has the power to...more
Jillian
This is a trilogy that I loved to read and was a little disappointed in at times as well. The story was wonderful....sort of a practical look at the legends of Merlin and Arthur and how many of the legends could have been the result of intellect beyond it's time and coincidence. But where the book sometimes seemed to "lose its train of thought" were the parts where this thesis that seemed to lead the story, was abruptly set aside for dramatic purposes it seemed. I am sure this was intentional, f...more
Danielle
For someone who is, for the most part, unfamiliar with Arthurian legend, this book was a warm introduction. The story is told from the perspective of Arthur's prophet, Merlin, who receives his power from what he refers to as "the god." More than anything, I was intrigued by the way that Stewart portrays the period of cultural transition following the collapse of the Roman empire-- a period during which King Arthur sought to piece together a single culture and at the same time, Christianity was g...more
Kerith
What a treat to read this again, all three books at once. I have read them many times before, the first time, I think, when I was 9 years old. I couldn't understand them much then, and I don't think I ever did much beyond skim the Last Enchantment and perhaps the last half of the Hollow Hills.
This is one of the best takes on Arthurian legend, and it's from Merlin's point of view. Not only is Mary Stewart's power of description beautifully strong, but she makes the shadowy, magical figure of Merl...more
Emily
I love this book (these books). I've read them multiple times, starting as a teenager. It's a different take on the Arthurian legend, told from Merlin's perspective. Mary Stewart did a great deal of research to write these books and her notes are every bit as interesting as the tale itself. As a child, I was particularly taken by her care with names, both of character and place.

It's also worth noting that most of her villans are not the same as they were in the Arthurian legend you may be famil...more
Nancy
My husband has been after me to read these books for years; they're some of his favorites. However, since I don't really like fantasy, I've resisted.

The first book is The Crystal Cave, the second is The Hollow Hills, and the third is The Last Enchantment. They are the story of Merlin the Magician and King Arthur. Mary Stewart, the author, is an excellent writer and, though the story is based on legend, it is historically accurate as far as possible.

I told a friend who had read these books years...more
Rodney
I enjoyed this book very much. Actually three books in one, Stewart does an excellent job walking us through the Aurthurian legends from Merlin's point of view. We get to know Merlin in a way not possible with other versions of the tale. Knowing the basic plotline, I was intrigued by many of the subplots and sidestories so prevalent in these three volumes. The characters are well-rounded, and I found myself liking some characters and disliking others, much the way I did with "Pillars of the Eart...more
Evan
Nov 30, 2009 Evan rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: people who like this type of thing
Shelves: sf
For the most part it’s very engaging. The plot moves along nicely and it’s easy to visualize. It’s also not really fantasy, more of a historical novel about the Dark Ages with some “mystical” elements here and there. I’m not sure about historical accuracy, but Stewart does seem to have done a lot of research. Merlin, as the blurb on the back of the book reminds us, is portrayed here as an ordinary man, not a magician shrouded in mystery (although others perceive him this way). He is also the nar...more
Terri Carl
May 27, 2008 Terri Carl rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: fantasy/fiction fans
Shelves: fiction
I was so happy to see this trilogy is in print again and available from Amazon for the low low price of $20!! I read it in paperback years ago, and bought hard covers at an antique book market.

I have read these books a number of times. They are beautifully written, exciting, and just all around wonderful. Mary Stewart makes the magic real. A must-read for Arthurian scholars.

The books are essentially the life story of Merlin, advisor and mentor to Arthur (King of the Britons). While Arthur, of co...more
Lynn Marie Sager
Apr 21, 2008 Lynn Marie Sager rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Any one who loves good historical fiction
If I were ever stuck on a deserted island, this is the book I would want with me. I read "The Crystal Cave," the first book in the trilogy, during the summer of 1972, before all the books were finished. I read "The last Enchantment," the last book in the series, during 1982 while I was in college. I re-read them whenever I feel the need for a trip back in time. Historical fiction at its absolute magical best...If you love these books and haven't read "The Wicked Day," be sure to check it out. In...more
Jay
Mar 16, 2008 Jay rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: fantasy
Perhaps my favorite books of all time. I've always enjoyed the Arthurian legends, but this telling of them, from Merlin's perspective, resonates perfectly with what I know of the history behind the myths.

Stewart tells her tale through the eyes of Merlin the Magician, Arthur's mentor and companion. The books are Merlin's own autobiography, starting with the first memories he can recall, and ending with the mundane tasks of his daily life as an old man setting his life down on paper. In between, w...more
Denise
One of my favorite books, but very long. One reviewer said that if all the long-winded descriptors were condensed in this book, it would only be one short book. With that in mind as I read it a second time, I could see his point. That aside, Ms Stewart is a good writer. Her version of the Merlin/King Arthur story is very readable and different if you like a journey away from mysticism and towards a more historical setting forming a basis from where legend evolved. I like this idea and enjoyed ex...more
Laurie
I read this trilogy when I was a teenager and wanted to read it again. I love the writing of Mary Stewart and her story of Merlin is amazing.

This particular book is actually three books in one, containing the whole trilogy. I got my copy at the library and since they didn't have the individual books, I got the three-in-one edition - over 900 small print pages, but worth the effort for these eyes.

I have to make myself put it down to get things done. One of my favorite books!
Kathie H
Jun 23, 2010 Kathie H rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Young adults on up
Recommended to Kathie by: Diane Montera
Epic trilogy about the Arthur legend from the point of view of Merlin. Engrossing story & characters. I adore Mists Of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, so on the recommendation of a good friend I read Mary Stewart's take. My eyes glazed over during the in-depth & complex descriptions of the various battles. Wished there was more magical passages too. I liked that Stewart didn't succumb to pressure from previous Arthurian accounts, & that she wrote her own story with its own outcome.
Jenny Shipp
I have loved these books forever! The first one is about Merlin as a boy and then young man as he searches for his power and his father. the next book in the trilogy is about how he helps create and hide the young Arthur.It is a beautifully written story, the whole trilogy, and takes you away, somewhere else. A completely different take on the whole Arthur legend than Mists of Avalon, for instance. My books are getting worn out because I read them often.
Art
I haven't read anything else by Mary Stewart, mostly because I'm afraid it would spoil the effect of this book. I first read it as a confused pre-teen and it literally changed my world. Not to mention, no other rendition of the Arthurian legend would satisfy me afterwards. It may not be the most amazing book ever written, but it is (hands down) a defining book for me, because it hit me at the right time, at the right place and in the right way.
Frances Manwaring
I read first when I was in my teens. Then I bought the set in my twenties. It's now nearly 3 decades later and I love it just as much as I ever did. I think it's a triumph of imagination, underscored with as much of an understanding of the history of post-Roamn Britain as is available. Mary Stewart takes the legend and turns it into what feels like historic fact. Loving it! Can't wait to move onto book 4 — The Wicked Day — which I haven't yet read.
Tia
She knows what she's doing. Unlike other epics, these books are personable. And yet encompass a vast range of space and time. Her insistence that what people call magic is in all actuality smart engineering made me smile every time it was mentioned. She engenders the readers trust within the first chapter - no small feat. A refreshing break from a genre full of clichés. This book is true to it's purpose. It gives Merlin new life.
Nancy
I love this series. I have read it 3-4 times over the course of the last 20 years and will probably read it again in the future. Quite possibly the best retelling of the Arthurian legends I have ever read. Those who like this series might also like to check out Jack Whyte's books as well for a grittier and less magical but equally compelling take on the story as it might have actually happened. Highly recommended.
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The Merlin Trilogy 6 37 Jan 28, 2014 12:49AM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Lady Mary Stewart is a popular English novelist, and taught at the school of John Norquay elementary for 30 to 35 years, but has now retired.

She is one of the most widely read fiction writers of our time. The author of twenty novels, a volume of poetry, and three books for...more
More about Mary Stewart...
The Crystal Cave (Arthurian Saga, #1) The Hollow Hills (Arthurian Saga, #2) The Last Enchantment (Arthurian Saga, #3) The Wicked Day (Arthurian Saga, #4) Nine Coaches Waiting

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“It does not do to neglect the gods of a place, whoever they may be. In the end, they are all one.” 16 likes
“To expect and dread a thing for a lifetime; does not prepare you for the thing itself.” 4 likes
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