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The Crystal Cave (Arthurian Saga #1)

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  34,887 Ratings  ·  1,246 Reviews
Who was Merlin? Was the famed magician of Camelot & King Arthur's court really a sinister, all-powerful being from another world? Was he truly a Prince of Darkness? Or was he a man with the passions of other mortals? A man with unique intelligence & unusual gifts? Why was he so feared? How did he come by his occult powers? Why was the crystal cave so important to h ...more
Paperback, 494 pages
Published May 1st 2003 by Eos (first published 1970)
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Kristina These books are amazingly well-written and explore the Arthur myth. I read them when I was 12 or so and have re-read them. They are NOT fantasy books…moreThese books are amazingly well-written and explore the Arthur myth. I read them when I was 12 or so and have re-read them. They are NOT fantasy books similar to Harry Potter! These books are more about the power/political alliances and kings and queens and Merlin's role in helping Uther Pendragon come to power. I would say it demands a more sophisticated and intelligent reader--for both children AND adults. These books are much better than most of the YA crap being published now. (less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Mar 25, 2008 L.J. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
5 enthusiastic stars!

"The first memory of all is dark and fireshot. It is not my own memory, but later you will understand how I know these things. You would call it not memory so much as a dream of the past, something in the blood, something recalled from him, it may be, while he still bore me in his body. I believe that such things can be. So it seems to me right that I should start with him who was before me, and who will be again when I am gone."

Wow! This book was exceptional! I was admitted
Aug 16, 2007 Savannah rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 13, 2008 Jackie rated it it was amazing
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.
Who was Merlin? Was the famed magician of Camelot & King Arthur's court really a sinister, all-powerful being from another world? Was he truly a Prince of Darkness? Or was he a man with the passions of other mortals? A man with unique intelligence & unusual gifts? Why was he so feared? How did he come by his occult powers? Why was the crystal cave so important to him?

5th century Britain is a country of chaos & division after the Roman withdrawal. Born the bastard son of a Welsh
Mar 02, 2016 ❀Julie rated it really liked it
3.5 I struggled a bit on how to rate this even though I think Mary Stewart is an amazing storyteller. This is the first in the Arthurian Saga series, told from the perspective of Merlin from the age of a young boy into early adulthood. I was really taken in by the story of Merlin himself and the people he encountered. I liked learning about the humanity of his character and what his magic was really about, and reading about the mystery behind his father. Some of the parts on war and politics wer ...more
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
Carol ♔Type, Oh Queen!♕

How does Mary Stewart do what she does?

With the best of her books she takes me into another world so completely that I am snarling "What???" at anyone foolhardy enough to try to make me look up from the pages of her book.

The descriptions are beautiful & often poetic.

Consider this;

Then she saw me watching her. For perhaps two seconds our eyes met and held. I knew then why the ancients armed the cruellest god with arrows; I felt the shock of it right through my body.

I wasn't familiar with
3.5/5 Yay! I finally finished a book!
The crystal cave is the first in an Arthurian retelling saga. Told from the perspective of Merlin, it follows him from a young boy to a young man in his late teens/early twenties.
Overall, I really enjoyed it! I love how she incorporated so many different elements from the original legends while still making them new.
I think my biggest complaint was lack of character development. Even Merlin didn't feel very developed and he was the one telling the story! It
Oct 23, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 16, 2009 Wealhtheow rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
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.
Jan 26, 2016 Kathleen rated it really liked it
I read this series in high school while recovering from the worst flu of my life. Loved the whole series!! Needed to pay my respects here at GR. Mary Stewart captivated my imagination and pulled me from the doldrums of recovery.

Here's a good deal. I bought the e-book complete series in this collection: Legacy: Arthurian Saga. Sadly, at Audible it's only sold in abridged format. No way. If only the audio series were republished in full length.
Sep 28, 2016 Obsidian rated it really liked it
I read this for the Dead Writers Society Genres for Everyone September 2016 challenge.

You know when I was a young girl the story of King Arthur and his knights of the round-table fascinated me. I read every book about Arthur I could find and even read Le Morte d'Arthur and had to go digging in my dictionary to figure out certain words. There was something about Camelot, the idea that a King who believed in truth and justice and was surrounded by men who were loyal to him (we will discuss Lancel
Sara Steger
Jan 14, 2016 Sara Steger rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of Historical Fiction or anything Arthurian
Who was Merlin? Most of us know the Arthurian tales in some aspect or another, and in them each of us has an idea of the role of Merlin, the great wizard who guides Arthur to be a great king. Few of us have ever stopped to think that legends spring from men and to wonder who the man was who was Merlin. Mary Stewart stopped to ask that question, and then proceeded to answer it with such finesse and glory and brilliance that whatever image of Merlin you have ever held will be dispelled and only he ...more
Wayne Barrett

This was a reread for me. It didn't quite thrill me as much as it did the first time I read it but I still think it rates a 5.

I love Mary Stewarts take on the Arthurian tale in this series, especially this opening book where she she begins with Merlin as a child and draws out the history through him. Stewart has taken some liberties and added her own special twist to the story which, to me, brings a unique viewpoint to the legend.

Enter the pages of this series and discover the true creator of S
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

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
Jan 31, 2014 Judith rated it really liked it
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
Aug 20, 2010 Risa rated it it was amazing
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
Sarah Ryburn
Oct 03, 2011 Sarah Ryburn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
Suzie Quint
Oct 08, 2011 Suzie Quint rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
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.
Maggie K
Feb 11, 2015 Maggie K rated it really liked it
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 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...
Lindsey Sablowski
Jul 28, 2011 Lindsey Sablowski rated it it was amazing
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
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
Mar 13, 2014 Monica rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 09, 2010 Amanda rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 16, 2012 Terence rated it really liked it
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • The Road to Avalon (Dark Ages of Britain, #1)
  • Hawk of May  (Down the Long Wind, #1)
  • Firelord (Firelord, #1)
  • Queen of the Summer Stars (Guinevere, #2)
  • The Skystone (Camulod Chronicles, #1)
  • Sword at Sunset
  • The Child Queen: The Tale of Guinevere and King Arthur
  • Sons of Avalon: Merlin's Prophecy
  • The Book of Merlyn (The Once and Future King, #5)
  • The Kingmaking (Pendragon's Banner Trilogy, #1)
  • Guinevere (Guinevere, #1)
  • The Pendragon
  • Arthur (The Pendragon Cycle, #3)
  • Twilight of Avalon (Twilight of Avalon, #1)
  • The Coming of the King (Books of Merlin, #1)
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...

Other Books in the Series

Arthurian Saga (5 books)
  • The Hollow Hills (Arthurian Saga, #2)
  • The Last Enchantment (Arthurian Saga, #3)
  • The Wicked Day (Arthurian Saga, #4)
  • The Prince and the Pilgrim (Arthurian Saga, #5)

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“The gods only go with you if you put yourself in their path. And that takes courage.” 33 likes
“I think there is only one. Oh, there are gods everywhere, in the hollow hills, in the wind and the sea, in the very grass we walk on and the air we breathe, and in the bloodstained shadows where men like Belasius wait for them. But I believe there must be one who is God Himself, like the great sea, and all the rest of us, small gods and men and all, like rivers, we all come to Him in the end.” 20 likes
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