Devin's Reviews > The Lost Years

The Lost Years by T.A. Barron
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's review
Aug 16, 2008

really liked it
Read in August, 2008

Here is the first installment of a series that I stumbled upon by accident many years ago. I knew nothing of this author or this series when I first picked up The Seven Songs of Merlin (book 2) in 2003. I read it, expecting a children’s fantasy with not much meat or meaning. What I got was an enriching story in an imaginative world wherein our most beloved wizard was lost for the most part of his formative years. Thus, when coming across the rest of the books more than three years later, I was eager to dive back in from the beginning.
The first book in this five book series begins with Merlin (Emrys at this point) landing on the coast of Gwynedd without any memory. Years pass and he becomes anxious to find out the land of his origin, and his true name. And so begins Merlin’s quest which shapes his understanding of the world, himself, and his unusual powers. I was surprised to learn that T. A. Barron has been quite a scholar on British history, particularly in Arthurian history, and knows almost everything there is to know about the myths surrounding this most famed wizard. Therefore, when you read these books, you know you are not getting some inaccurate, meaningless, made-up romp through what might have happened to Merlin. Although there is no sure history of what actually happened during these years of Merlin’s, which is what inspired Barron to write such a history, we can be assured that if there were, it would correspond with these novels quite well. We see that through all the subtle connection he makes to the actual history (or, rather, myth). The whole book is filled with them and, if you are studying Merlin at all, you might be surprised to find quite a few of your questions answered by the events in this novel.
About the writing itself, it is wonderful. I do not read a whole lot of young adult fiction anymore, but I can tell that this is some of the best. It is quite simple to read, yet at the same time, very adult in its content (not meaning explicit, only mature). Not only is there adventure, but he also covers questions of the soul, and portrays beautiful friendships. If you’re looking for ultra complex, gritty relationships then don’t look here. In that sense, it is very young adult. Everything is kept fairly simple. But there are a few surprises here and there.
The only problem I have with the book, and I’m afraid it will be the same with all of these books, is the pace. It’s fast. I felt like the entire novel happened in five days, when I know it really spanned months. This is understandable, since young adults and kids can’t be expected to sit down with a book through 700+ pages of detailed descriptions of every day in the story. For, some, this is a blessing. For others it can be a frustration. It just depends on how you prefer to read a fantasy adventure. Other than this I can’t think of anything wrong with it besides a little deus ex machina to help Merlin out every once in a while. We got to give him a break, though. He’s learning, right? Anyway, pick this book up and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it thoroughly.
Aug 9, ‘08

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