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The Hollow Hills

(Arthurian Saga #2)

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  19,708 ratings  ·  494 reviews
The countryside of England and Wales in the Dark Ages forms an almost tangible background to this wonderfully and powerfully realised picture of an ancestral hero coming to manhood. "The Hollow Hills" is the brilliant portrayal of the young Arthur from his birth to accession to the throne of Britain. And behind and around him is the strong, yet vulnerable figure of Merlin ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 464 pages
Published October 1983 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published 1973)
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  19,708 ratings  ·  494 reviews

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Start your review of The Hollow Hills (Arthurian Saga, #2)
Christmas Carol ꧁꧂
“I am nothing, yes; I am air and darkness, a word, a promise. I watch in the crystal and I wait in the hollow hills. But out there in the light I have a young king and a bright sword to do my work for me, and build what will stand when my name is only a word for forgotten songs and outworn wisdom, and when your name, Morgause, is only a hissing in the dark.”

This book is full of quotable quotes like the above and The Legend of Arthur & Merlin is one of the great tales off all time, but
May 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After the thrills of The Crystal Cave, we pick Merlin up, bleeding on the side of the road out of Tintagel, and watch as he begins his journey into the life of the boy who will be King Arthur. One of literature’s great characters, Merlin is the bridge between Ambrosius and Arthur--the once and future kings, and for my money he embodies all that is fine about both of them.

Mary Stewart's Merlin appeals to me mostly because of his humanity. He pays a high price for his powers, and they are granted
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Following on from the spell binding The Crystal Cave Mary Stewart came up with an equally enthralling page turner taking us from the morning after Arthur's conception until he is proclaimed King of Britain at fourteen, on the day after of the death of his father Uther Pendragon. It shows us the story through the eyes of a very human, brilliantly intelligent, resourceful, and wise Merlin with powers of enchantment. Merlin is takes to oversee Arthur's childhood where he is been placed under the ...more
Sep 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent follow up to The Crystal Cave & beautifully read. It's the same in style & tone, too.

I want to call this 'old school' fantasy. There is no graphic sex, violence, or even any flashy magic, but there is an aura of mystery & pomp that permeates the entire story. There is a hard core of realism tempered by spirituality that defines the world & the magic. The descriptions are lyric, too. A fantastic break from the current style of writing & yet not boring at all. In
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: myfavorites
I enjoyed more than the first book (I didn't think it was possible). Well, when I read the first book in the series l loved it but as I go on reading the second book I began to feel more and more excited even though Mary Stewart made me wait to let happen what I looked forward to coming. But even though it came late, I was enjoying as much as I grew impatient. I loved Arthur as much as I love Merlin. If this series even a little seems interesting, you shouldn't miss and read them :))) I don't ...more
Moonlight Reader
Dec 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vintage-women
The first half was 3 stars, but the second half was amazing. More later!
Mary Stewart’s Arthurian books are certainly very different to her romance/mystery ones. It’s much more the world of Rosemary Sutcliff’s Sword at Sunset than the sort of world her heroines inhabit in the modern stories: one of uncertain magic and prophecy, of blood and hatred and death. And it comes out much less positive about female characters. There are few prominent ones, and even mentions of women tend to be dark portents and shadows on the future Merlin foresees. But I do love the Welsh ...more
Oliviu Craznic
A beautiful, wonderfully written story.
Even the Christians are treated fair (unlike the previous volume).
One star out for a redundant episode: Merlin is caught three times, each time being released once recognized. Not unbelievable given the circumstances; however, the author could have done that part of the tale much better.
5+ dazzling stars!

Another phenomenal installment in Mary Stewart's Arthurian saga, The Hollow Hills begins right where we concluded the brilliant gem of a story, The Crystal Cave. The masterful storytelling, the wonder and the adventure are no less evident here than in the first of the series! I was captured once again and savored every word as if it were a treasure.

In this book, the compassionate and human side of Merlin is revealed even further. Merlin, as "the instrument of the gods", knows
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sotiris Karaiskos
The second book in the series follows much the same path with the first by stayin mainly outside of the classic legend, necessarily of course because of the choice to follow the story through the eyes of the magician Merlin. In the case of this book Additionally we are in a vacuum of the story between the conception of Arthur and his taking of the crown so necessarily the author must improvise and here we fall in a problematic situation. I must confess that I do not believe that this gap was ...more
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So excellent in language and description, this one didn't tickle me as much as the first book did.

Merlin's travels for that decade were interesting, but for me anyway- those ten years covered in this book tempered it all so much! The intensity of the "musts" of the first book for his own role / power ability to grow, they were far more in this tale merely a miasma "practicing" of "after" to that. In fact, I didn't feel the considerable sacrifices that Merlin made to accept and use his power was
This will be a short review because I have a joint blog post about this book with my co-blogger in crime, Moonlight Reader.

I still like having Merlin as the narrator in these books and we do get some insight into what power is calling to him and also to Arthur. I found Merlin to be just as obstinate as the character of Uther at times because he doesn't like to be challenged. And I think at times Stewart tries to over explain the appeal of the character of Arthur to those around him.

The women
Wayne Barrett

In part 2 of the Arthurian saga we have, instead of Excalibur, Caliburn. The sword is claimed by Arthur in a different manner from the traditional story but still fits nicely with the theme.

As with book 1, I think Hollow Hills is also a great book and keeps the reader yearning to move on to part 3.
Sep 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
These books are so beautifully written. Is it bad, being as how it's called the Arthurian Saga, that I'm bummed the next one is going to be more about Arthur and less about Merlin?

Favorite quotes:

387. "Everyone knows the King's unchancy to cross. But you just looked cold as ice, as if you expected him to do what you wanted, just as everyone does! You, afraid? You're not afraid of anything that's real."
"That's what I mean," I said. "I'm not sure how much courage is needed to face human
Jul 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mm. I could literally roll in Stewart's writing. Seriously. Like a dog. It's just... the setting of it all is so rich it's like Middle Earth. Only, er, real. Sort of. And not quite as gorgeous and fantastic - but close.
Sometimes it is the later books in a series that really bring the whole thing together. This is definitely the case when it comes to The Hollow Hills. The story doesn’t exceed The Crystal Cave, in fact, I would say the Crystal Cave is by far the more interesting novel, but I firmly believe that The Hollow Hills takes the story of Merlin, and makes it a legend. I think that it is this novel that makes me think back to The Crystal Cave with a smile, because the happenings of that novel are ...more
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another solid 4 to 4.5 stars!

This book continues the story of Arthur through the writing of Merlin. I thought the characters were great and made me feel involved in the story. The writing (through Merlin) is very well done. It has enough details and action in the story to pull the reader in and not too much that the story slows down. With this second book it brought about memories of me as a child watching the sword in the stone. I think this made me feel more connected to the story and able to
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is fantastically descriptive and very enjoyable to read. The world-building was immersive, and the characters were well sketched. It fell short with the women in the book, none of whom left any real impression and all of whom were treated and discussed by Merlin with either dismissiveness or contempt. I found this book in a second-hand bookstore and am now looking to read The Crystal Cave before moving on to later books in the series. The Hollow Hills was a good stand alone book, ...more
Jonathan Donihue
The king is dead! Long live the King!!

The second book in the series. It starts with the birth of Arthur and ends with the Death of King Uther and the ascension of Arthur to the throne. There are some real gems in this book. I enjoyed it thoroughly and am looking forward to the next book.
Stace Dumoski
When I wrote up my review of The Crystal Cave, I said I had read the first two books in this Arthurian series by Mary Stewart years ago, but I think I may have been wrong. None of what I read in this second volume felt at all familiar to me (except in the general Arthurian sense), so I’m not sure I ever read it after all. Of course, it’s only been a short time since I finished it and it’s and is already fading from memory, so who knows?

The only distinct impression I have after reading The Hollow
Jan 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arthurian, fantasy
Others have reviewed this book at great length, so I'll just focus in on what has stayed with me since my first reading (I've read this series multiple times): the relationship between Merlin and Arthur. In so many tellings of this tale, Merlin appears only at the beginning--to prophesy Arthur's coming, to teach him and prophesy his death, and then to disappear. Arthur may mourn the loss of a guide/teacher/enchanter, but the relationship between the two is not as important as Arthur's ...more
The sword in the stone Mary Stewart style- absolutely brilliant! I loved the way that this very famous part of the Arthur saga was dealt with in such a totally believable way.(view spoiler) ...more
Apr 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scavenged
The Mists of Avalon ruined any other Arthur legend tales for me. I know this is a famous and well-loved version of the story (written by a woman, even), but it's just too Christian and patriarchal for me.
debbicat ☮~Traveling Sister
Much more than 5 stars. What a satisfying read!!!! I liked this one even more than The Crystal Cave. I am excited to read the continuing story in The Last Enchantment with Arthur now as King.

Full review to follow. So beautifully told.
The Hollow Hills is the second book in Mary Stewart's Arthurian saga and covers the fifteen years between Arthur's birth and his acclamation as High King as experienced by Merlin, who spends much of it avoiding the limelight and traveling to Asia Minor and Constantinople. In a word, not taking a role in Arthur's life whatsoever until a few months before the boy's acclamation.

Which is the primary problem. We can't engage with either the chief character of the novel or with his ostensible ward.
Danny Runkel
While the characters in the story were interesting enough, the fact that Merlin is not in fact an enchanter of immense power is a take on the saga that I did not particularly care for. For me, it was almost akin to making Sherlock Holmes solve all of his mysteries by pure luck rather than unparalleled genius.

In addition, much of the story was not all that relevant. There were times where I would skip entire pages that went on an on about political unrest with so and so in such and such a place.
May 31, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Slow. At page 250 I realized I'd seen only about 25 pages of plot. I couldn't help feeling as if I were reading the author's background notes or justification for fitting her version of the tale into the older myths. If you read the Wikipedia plot summary, you can see really only three or four things happen. If you do read the Wikipedia plot summary, you shouldn't feel like you missed much by not reading the book itself. If I had gained insight into magic or Merlin's heart or something, I ...more
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Ok, the first book of this series was just so so for me..then I started this one. Oh my! I am loving it. Merlin goes on a search for the legendary sword, Arthur grows up, Uther the king passes and so much more. Written so that you feel you are right there with Merlin leaning over his shoulders.
Carla Neggers
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A classic, beautifully told story.
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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, born Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow, 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,

Other books in the series

Arthurian Saga (5 books)
  • The Crystal Cave (Arthurian Saga, #1)
  • The Last Enchantment (Arthurian Saga, #3)
  • The Wicked Day (Arthurian Saga, #4)
  • The Prince and the Pilgrim (Arthurian Saga, #5)
“Every life has death and every light has shadow. Be content to stand in the light and let the shadow fall where it will.” 2293 likes
“It is not true that women cannot keep secrets. Where they love, they can be trusted to death and beyond, against all sense and reason. It is their weakness, and their great strength. ” 461 likes
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