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Merlin (The Pendragon Cycle, #2)
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(The Pendragon Cycle #2)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  9,528 ratings  ·  276 reviews
An enchanting tale of love and loss, glory and grandeur, set in the twilight of Rome's power . . . where the Celtic chieftains of Britain battle to save their land from an onrushing darkness . . . In this modern classic, Stephen Lawhead presents a majestic retelling of Western literature's most compelling epic. Merlin. His golden eyes saw the shape of a world yet to be. Hi ...more
Paperback, 484 pages
Published May 21st 1996 by Zondervan (first published 1987)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  9,528 ratings  ·  276 reviews

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Richard Derus
Rating: 2.5* of five

The Publisher Says: He was born to greatness, the son of a druid bard and a princess of lost Atlantis. A trained warrior, blessed with the gifts of prophecy and song, he grew to manhood in a land ravaged by the brutal greed of petty chieftains and barbarian invaders.

Merlin: Respected, feared and hated by many, he was to have a higher destiny. for It was he who prepared the way for the momentous event that would unite the Island of the Mighty—the coming of Arthur Pendragon, Lo
Jeff Miller
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As much as I liked the first book in the series, I liked this one more. The first book told two intertwining stories as it needed to do. This was done well, but Merlin is much more focused and I liked it better for that. This is really my favorite of the retellings regarding Merlin, especially since he is a man of virtue and humility.
Feb 02, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This second book in the series takes us from Merlin's childhood to his saving baby Arthur (I don't think that's a spoiler---don't we all know he did that?). Unlike Taliesin, the narration is first person, which I think is right. I like Merlin telling his own story. I liked this one more than I liked Taliesin, but that was to be expected. Isn't Merlin everyone's favorite Arthurian character? Merlin is a character who's taken on many forms. I like the old Once and Future King/Disney Merlin (though ...more
Miriam Cihodariu
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
With the second book in the series, things started to get more interesting and more in-line with the legends we already know and love. What Lawhead does with the classic Arthurian myths is both original and true to their essence.

Hard to say more than I already did when reviewing Taliesin, but I'll repeat myself nonetheless: one of the best things about the book is how well-documented it is, both in terms of the legends and the historical old Celtic world of the 6th and 7th centuries AD.
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After the major disappointment that was Patrick, it was refreshing to read Merlin. It reminded my why I still call Lawhead one of my favorite authors. Not to mention, the theology wasn't horribly suspect (always a plus).

Merlin is, for me, one of those books that breathes truth, beauty, and goodness. It's not all sunshine and rainbows, and awful things happen, but there is a definite Hope and Light to it that is missing from a lot of books, especially what I've read recently. It is now on the sh
Apr 28, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, read-2020
I read the first book of this quartet of Lawhead's reimagining of the Arthurian legends what feels like a lifetime ago and finally dredged up the motivation to continue. Entertaining enough and a surprisingly quick read for 500+ pages, but I do wish I'd read this in the original language rather than the German translation - at least then I'd know whether to blame the overly flowery prose on the author or the translator. Less religious babble might have helped, too... was all the "our lord and sa ...more
Paul  Perry
Aug 09, 2010 rated it did not like it
Rarely have I had such a strong negative reaction to a book. I hated it. And part of the reason, I think, I that the first volume, Taliesin, was superb. But while in Taliesin Lawhead spun an intriguing tale that treated the source material with respect, Merlin quickly becomes a religious tract proclaiming how superior christianity is to the pagan religions that it displaces.

For me, Lawhead did two unforgivable things in this book. First, he makes Merlin a christian and a missionary. Yes, of cou
May 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
I don't know. Perhaps I was expecting more "Merlinish" things but there was little that happened in this book. (view spoiler) It just felt like tons of filler to me, and I wasn't that interested in this characterization of Merlin. ...more
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really love Lawhead's Merlin. There was a gruesome bit (fighting Saxons probably was), but I love seeing how a familiar legend is getting written about in the very real ancient Britain. ...more
Philip Mastandrea
I'm very much enjoying the series although I wouldn't say I'm loving it. Quarantine is really messing with my reading so these books are taking much longer than normal. Even mostly knowing all the story, the unique flavor of the writing is keeping me wanting more. Unsure if I will read all 6 books in the series but I can't imagine stopping yet. ...more
Timothy Williams
Lawhead is quickly becoming my favorite fantasy author. His writing has a poetic quality that reads effortlessly. In this book we get a composite Merlin and one in his own words. A composite because we get to see the wizard of the high legend, the mad man of the older legend and Geoffrey of Monmouth's Book of Merlin, and the prophet of the History of the Kings of Britain. Putting the story in first person was an inspired way of convincingly combining those three facets into one "real" person.

Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2019
I so wanted to like this book. I really wanted to enjoy this book, as the story of Merlin has always fascinated me. I enjoyed Lawhead's previous book in the Pendragon Cycle, Taliesin, so I thought this one would be a hit as well. Alas, I just could not get into the story, finding it hard to slog through; so it, unfortunately, lands in my DNF pile.

A few things:

First, I think Merlin has helped me to realize that I am just not a fan of first-person narration, or at least Lawhead's style of it (beca
Peter Walton-Jones
Feb 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Merlin is the second book in the "Pendragon Cycle". I enjoyed the first book "Taliesin," and for me this was an even better read. The story of the ageless Merlin...bard, druid, king-maker, warrior. From his youth he is the central figure to this story of the political machinations of early Briton. The story has plenty of energy and although characters rise and fall, come and go, with great regularity it does not fail to drag the reader in all the way to the proverbial sword-in-the-stone-moment a ...more
Daria Black
May 30, 2019 rated it did not like it
I couldn't finish this book. I tried because I usually like to at least see what the ending entails but this book was so dry and repetitive that I could not finish it even if someone paid me. The story was slow and uneventful and the idea of Merlin being a Christian missionary didnt make any sense. He would even make comments about the the druids and how the last Celts needed to conform to the new God and Jesu. He didnt even practice a spiritual druidic life and was mostly vanishing and reappear ...more
Chad Warner
Feb 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chad by: Brady Cargle
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
A solid sequel to Taliesin, though not as good as that book. This one has a heavier emphasis on Arthurian legend. For a book about Merlin, I expected more magic. The book is emotional, especially related to the pain of loss. The pace is too slow at times, and spends too much time on politics for my taste.

(view spoiler)
Sep 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
the second book of the cycle, but the first book of the cycle that i read.. :p
all i can say is, this book made me love merlin even more.. ^_^
a must read for those of you who loves arthurian legend.. there's a bit of religious stuff in all of stephen r. lawhead's books, which is fine with me.. :)
Sarah Garner
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I actually preferred this book to the first even though I was slightly disappointed that the author decided to make Merlin a Christian as apposed to making him a Pagan, but other than that a really good read.
Mike (the Paladin)
Nov 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I'm so tired of Rehashes of the Arthurian legend,(there seem to be thousands) but the Lawhead series is (I think) better than the norm. ...more
Sep 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I always love stories of Merlin and Arthur and this series has been good so far, however it is disturbing to me that Merlin is Christian in these books.
Devon Flaherty
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
The Pendragon Trilogy, by Stephen R. Lawhead, which includes Taliesin, Merlin, and Arthur. I read old paperbacks from Avon Books which I received as hand-me-downs from my aunt. The original publication dates were 1987, 1988, and 1989.

Turns out I was confused about these books. I had figured out the order of the trilogy as Taliesin, Merlin, and Arthur, but here and there I would see other titles in the series. So, once I had finished the trilogy, I researched and discovered that the “trilogy” was
Jack Vasen
This is the second of the series which is a long continuing saga of the legend of King Arthur. It ends at a convenient stopping point, but I didn't think that the story stood by itself.

The first section titled King, is off to a decent start. The material is different from approaches to the legend that I'm familiar with. Section 2, Forest Lord, is where this book starts to fall apart. For starters, since the entire book is first person narration by Merlin, most of this section is intended to conv
If it wasn't for Merlin stating at the start of the book that this story isn't about him but of how Arthur came to be, I would have been a tad bit disappointed in the book. Merlin did pave way for Arthur and because of him Arthur exists and this book is basically about that. Of course for that to happen we have to see Merlin grow up and go through life in all it's unfairness.
Okay so, did I like the book, yes but not as much as I liked Taelisin. It's Merlin I expected something different than wh
This book was exciting and entertaining, and I LOVE the historical fiction aspect.

As with book 1 in the series, I bought this book twenty years ago, put it on my bookshelf, moved a couple of times, put it in a box, and never read it. I can't even find the right book cover for this review. I went through a Merlin and Arthur phase, wrote reports in college about the Fisher King, and was way into all things mythology, read a bunch of books, but just never got to these.

This book covers all the base
Claire Belberg
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
This second book of the cycle was challenging to get into because it starts in a style that matches the state of the protagonist's mind - chaotic, nightmarish, despairing. Once I moved past that, as Merlin moved into life and hope again, I was once again caught up in the grand sweep of Stephen R Lawhead's saga. It was engrossing, thrilling, sometimes chilling, sometimes heart-warming. The chapters whizzed by. When I reached the end, I wished I had the third volume at hand.

Anticipating a visit to
Emily Pinter
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I so enjoy and relish how Lawhead writes the story of the legendary Merlin. You feel engaged and connected to this England of small kingdoms and many kings, all trying to stay alive against all the forces opposing them. They have yet to be united under one banner and Merlin is the man bringing in this change, though he may not know it yet. Lawhead knows how to tell a good story and have characters you connect with, feeling their joy and their suffering. The way he weaves magic and reality in his ...more
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: already-bought
It took me a bit of effort to get back into the world and remember who was who and what happened in Taliesin (it's been a few months since I read that one), but once I managed that, I was swept away by the world and by the wonderful workings of Merlins mind and life. I had a bit of trouble following the timeline (there passed far more time than I thought), but I really liked it and want to read the next part (that's where it gets really interesting for me, as someone who likes the Arthur stories ...more
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I could not put it down.

Because the author writes as if speaking to the reader, the reader (myself) felt invited, included, and at time even questioned on whether or not this idea was worth the time and energy to consider. I am so drawn into the story that I feel I have a voice on who I want for king. Ect.
I can't wait to read the next book or should I say I can't wait for the author to come and visit our world again.
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I greatly enjoy reading anything by Stephen R. Lawhead. He expertly combines drama, romance, and action into a spellbinding tale worthy of the craft of his title! This novel is, while tragic in true Celtic fashion, redeeming in hope for future glory found in the accomplishment of the projects made throughout the series. If you can put this book down, you are more disciplined than me! I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a well written, well paced, and fabulous novel!
Dec 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Altogether a really enjoyable read— although hints of Catholicism are bound to pop up now and again in a Catholic’s book. Lawhead manages to completely change the legend in a way that is also completely believable, almost redeeming some of the characters. My only criticism (other than Catholicism), is that romantic relationships are often approached VERY sentimentally, which I don’t think is helpful to avid fantasy readers.
Asha Stark
I had a small whine about the pacing and characterisations in the previous book in the series (Taliesin), but I think it must just have been Lawhead finding his way into this story because none of them are apparent in Merlin.

Good, solid Arthurian tale and I can't wait to crakc on with #3; Arthur.
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Play Book Tag: Merlin-3 stars 1 12 Apr 05, 2019 12:58PM  
This book isn't merlin, need to know what it's called? 1 23 Jun 02, 2013 01:03PM  
how is christianity portrayed in this book? 3 47 Jun 19, 2011 04:15PM  

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Stephen R. Lawhead is an internationally acclaimed author of mythic history and imaginative fiction. His works include Byzantium, Patrick, and the series The Pendragon Cycle, The Celtic Crusades, and The Song of Albion.

Also see his fanpage at Myspace:

Stephen was born in 1950, in Nebraska in the USA. Most of his early life was spent in America where he earned

Other books in the series

The Pendragon Cycle (5 books)
  • Taliesin (The Pendragon Cycle #1)
  • Arthur (The Pendragon Cycle, #3)
  • Pendragon (The Pendragon Cycle, #4)
  • Grail (The Pendragon Cycle, #5)

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