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The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
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Mar 07, 12

Read in February, 2012

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 perfect twist to the ancient tale of Merlin and the Pendragons. Although this tale has been spun for many a century, Mary Stewart has found way to breathe life bath into the spirits of these heroes and magicians. Her expansive knowledge beautifully added to the book as it allowed the reader to enter the rolling golden hills of yellow gorse and the black and blue mountains with castles and towns strapped to their edges and valleys. The Washington Post Book World described her book as having “whetted reader’s appetites for Arthurian marvels… Her purpose is not to recast old material but to bring alive a long dead historical epoch… This she does splendidly”. This was later followed by a review from the Capital Times describing the book as being “an enchanting version of the Arthurian Legend that stands heads and shoulders above a bland mass of fairy tales based on the story…. Three dimensional characters in a realistic world… A feast for Arthur lovers everywhere. In her fully realized version of the legend, Stewart remains true to tradition while holding and surprising us all with the unexpected plot twists. The magic in her novel is mysterious.” As well as being inspired by the tale itself Stewart used sources such as a poem written by Edwin Muir, shown at the end of this review.
For those who are reluctant to read long books, this one will addict you as you ravage the pages till the final one is read. For those who enjoy the action of a war, there are many within this book, capturing the adventure and power lust of fifth century Britain. For a cliff hanger read this excerpt, if you wish to discover for yourself please skip to the next paragraph…
“A voice was shouting, high and monotonous, gasping. I could not get my breath. Pain Broke through me, spreading from groin and belly like blood bursting from a wound. I could see nothing. I felt my hands knotting and stretching. My head hurt, and the rock was hard and streaming wet under my cheekbone. I had fainted, and they had seized me as I lay and were killing me: this was my blood seeping from me to spread into the pool and shore up the foundations of their rotten tower. I choked on breath like bile. My hands tore in pain at the rock, and my eyes were open, but all I could see was the whirl of banners and wings and wolves’ eyes and sick mouths gaping, and the tail of a comet like a brand, and stars shooting through a rain of blood. Pain went through me again, a hot knife into the bowels. I screamed, and suddenly my hands were free. I threw them up between me and the flashing visions and I heard my own voice calling, but could not tell what I called. In front of me the visions whirled, fractured, broke open in intolerable light, then shut again into darkness and silence.”
Merlin
Page 302-303
If you have read this book and are craving more from Mary Stewart you will be happy to hear that this is only book one, there are still four more available at a book store! She has also written a trilogy focusing on Merlin, and a host of other books based on history and upon her own fictions, there are even some for the younger generation! Some of these include “A Walk in Wolf Wood”, “Ludo and the Star Horse”, and “The Little Brookstick”.

MERLIN
By Edwin Muir

O Merlin in your Crystal cave,
Deep in the diamond of the day,
Will there ever be a singer
Whose music will smooth away
The furrow drawn by Adam’s finger
Across the meadow and the wave?
Or a runner who’ll outrun
Man’s long shadow driving on,
Burst through the gates of history,
And hang the apple on the tree?
Will your sorcery ever show
The sleeping bride shut in her bower,
The day wreathed in its mound of snow,
And Time locked in his tower?
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message 1: by Jenifer (new)

Jenifer I'm always fascinated by this story. Merlin is such a fascinating charcter! Have you read Le Morte D'arthur?


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