Savannah's Reviews > The Crystal Cave

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
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Aug 16, 07

bookshelves: majorinfluences
Recommended for: fantasy lovers, Historial fiction lovers, historians on vacation, arthur nuts

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 England cement this further, and issues that actually existed at the supposed time are woven in rather then ignored.

For those un-familiar with the time period, Arthurian legend is supposed to have taken place in the early dark ages- from the fall of the Roman Empire around 500 to almost 700 is an appropriate range. This setting is not one that is conducive to a lot of what we think of as Arthurian Ideals- Those weren't even introduced until the Victorian age of Romanticism. Instead we are in a land where there are shambles of government, Generals without direction, old roman baths and homes from several generations ago being reused or used as a base for newer buildings, and many superstitions and beliefs that are slowly starting to meet and undergo a mutation into Christianity. It is a time of Transition.

Our Merlin (or Myrddyn if you're into the Welsh part) is just as human as those around him here. He is a bastard son from a roman general who had an affair with a young woman- who then let everyone believe her son was devil spawn rather then admit she'd slept around. hm. OH, and did I mention that the general was Arthur's Uncle? And it gets more convoluted on a human level.

But Magic! where's the MAGIC? Oh young grasshopper, that's where Stewart handles this best. You see, rather then the all mighty mystical Merlin from Sword in the Stone, We have a young Boy who learns Tricks and illusions from an aging teacher, with a little bit of pagan magical practice as well. In fact, the first thing he learns is fire starting. Overall, this is a more human approach, and I prefer it.

Another point to note- This isn't Arthur's story. This, my friends, is Merlin's. The first book (this one) follows him from a young boy through his coming of age- Identity issues and all. Coincidentally, This first book ends at the Conception of Arthur.
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