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Arthurian Novels: Crystal Cave/Hollow Hills/The Last Enchantment (Arthurian Saga #1-3)

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  3,923 Ratings  ·  170 Reviews
The Merlin Trilogy is Mary Stewart's take on the Arthurian legend in three books: The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment. These books have Merlin, Arthur's wizard mentor, as their focal point, and the result is a charming, engrossing tale providing a unique perspective on a familiar tale. Her history is superb and richly detailed, her characterization ...more
Published June 1982 by G.K. Hall (first published January 1st 1978)
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Lucy March Suitable? Yeah, probably. It's not too rough content wise. Would most thirteen year olds be all that interested in it, though? Maybe not.

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J. Bralick
May 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Besides the Lord of the Rings, this was probably the first real fantasy trilogy that I read. I've gone back and read it many times since then, and I think it will always be one of my standards for excellent fantasy.

There's something about Mary Stewart's Merlin that is just captivating. He's flawed, enigmatic, strong, admirable, calculating, naive, and wonderfully human. I confess I've always been a little in love with him. Mary Stewart makes his growth from child to the wise old Merlin so believ
Aug 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's got to be a good 25-30 years since I read these three books, and were just as enjoyable now as they were then. Stuart has a lovely way of describing a scene, the land and the people. If you purchased the trilogy in one book, just remember that they were originally three separate books. I found that while I read it as one book this time, there were redundancies and/or things that I would have expected to be cut from one large novel, but necessary additions in three separate novels. I found m ...more
Walter Conner
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this series many years ago, including the sequel, The Wicked Day in which the Arthurian legend comes full-circle with the story of Arthur's bastard son Mordred. I found her approach to the legend very fascinating. I have since reread them at least twice (I have the hardbound set), and enjoyed them immensely each time.

Some reviewers have noted the "slow" pacing of these novels, and they do, indeed, move more slowly than many modern readers prefer. For me, however, Mary Stewart's incr
Sep 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-unowned
A fascinating spin on the same old King Arthur story. Stewart focuses on Merlin as the main character in this series, starting with his young years as a bastard and continuing through his demise shortly into Arthur's reign. Stewart's strength was in bringing these so well-known characters to life and giving them depth. Her weakness was incredibly slow pacing. Yes, we knew what was going to happen, but that doesn't make the story completely unimportant. Foreshadowing was well-used, between Merlin ...more
Nov 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This series puts a very touching, very human face to the ancient Merlin story, as the legendary magician faces the trials of discovering and developing his own power, and later as he grooms the young Arthur Pendragon to assume the throne and unite a kingdom after the chaos following the fall of the Roman Empire. The story traces Merlin's journey from boyhood through the height of his reknown, and even into his twilight years as he settles into 'retirement', and discovers that it is never too lat ...more
Monica Davis
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
By far one of the best books I have ever read. 900+ pages, continually flowing and engaging. Using the title character, Merlin, as her narrator, Mary Stewart is masterful in her storytelling...wonderfully descriptive; drawing on the reader's senses to experience the smells, tastes, sights, sounds, and touch of this fantastic tale. A wonderful backstory to the usual focus, much happens before Camelot is introduced to us (700 pages into the book). Highly recommend this thoroughly enjoyable read.
Lucy March
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is a lovely book containing all three of Mary Stewart's brilliant Merlin stories. The first "The Crystal Cave" is about his childhood and how he ended up helping Arthur come to be (more towards the end), the second "The Hollow Hills" concerns his relationship with Arthur as he grows up to become king, and the third "The Last Enchantment" is the end of his role in the Arthurian story and his relationship with Nimue.

And I have to say I loved all three books equally and for different reasons.
Tara Lynn Tanner
Jun 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me some time to get through this trilogy (only a little because I kept looking for my red pen to mark mistakes in this edition), but mostly because it was very episodic and covered such a long time period following Merlin from when he was a young boy until he died. I loved the story- appreciated the historical aspects- and was thrilled by the twists and turns of the plot.

Favorite passage:
It may perhaps seem strange that a prophet who had seen Arthur's crowning so plain and clear and ri
Jan 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished
I really enjoyed this series. Why? I enjoyed that many readers, young and old, could find this an enjoyable series. It also is something that one would enjoy even though they typically do not read science fiction/fantasy. Having said that, I love this genre and was not disappointed. The writing was rich with detail and yet not weighted down. I also felt that the writer had tried to research the era and attributes as far as possible and then took the liberty of writing a fictious work that could ...more
Sep 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
And so I finally finish the Merlin tale. It was well worth the time. It only felt a little slow and sludgy at the last book with tales of Arthur taking center stage. Really enjoyed reading about the legend of Merlin.
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am in the middle of the second book and am remembering why I LOVE this book so much. As I read, I am caught up in the story, unable to stop.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
This is one of my favorite books, consisting of three novels that follow the Arthurian legend through the eyes of Merlin. The first novel, The Crystal Cave was assigned to me in high school, as was Mary Renault's story about Theseus, The Bull from the Sea--what Renault did for Ancient Greece, Mary Stewart did for Dark Age Britain. This has been described as fantasy, and there are touches of that, but much of Merlin's magic is rationalized--this is more historical fiction than fantasy, and as suc ...more
E. Ardell
I am sucker for Arthurian legend. Anything starring Arthur and Lancelot, I will give a chance. I've always been amused by Merlin, but he was never a favorite character of mine until this book. Mary Stewart creates a serious Merlin that we follow from boyhood into adulthood. Merlin is brilliant, cunning and humble and the bastard son of King Ambrosius, brother of Uther Pendragon, making him Arthur's uncle.

I love that he's not a bumbling old man, but a handsome prince who doesn't want titles and d
Feb 14, 2017 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Bogged down half way through the second book. Gracious, it moves slowly.
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series, fantasy
I love re-imaginings of the Arthurian mythos. So I thought this series would be right up my alley; taking the myths and grounding them, removing a lot of the high fantasy elements of the stories and making the characters human and believable.

Well, positives first. The world at large is really interesting. I liked the political intrigue, both with the Saxons and between the petty kings. I loved Ambrosius, and Merlin and Uther's relationship. I love Stewart's re-imagining of Nimue; it's the most s
Feb 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really good interpretation of the King Arthur legend, told from the perspective of Merlin. It's fun to see the characters come into the story, remember what the legends said about them, and see how Mary Stewart casts them. Except it took me forever to realize that Bedwyr is a more accurate version of the name Bedivere, and I am embarrassed because he is one of my favorite characters in the legend.

In any case, the writing is good and the events are interesting. Merlin has the power to
I did it! I finally finished the trilogy!!! I want to give this series 5 stars but I am only giving it 4 because of how loooonnnggg it took me to read,(4 months!) and not all the books were 5 star books. I had to get used to Mary Stewart's writing style also as I was expecting this to be more fantasy and not as much historical legends. Once I got used to the idea this wasn't going to be a book about Merlin's magnificant magic and more about history and Merlin as someone who could be real and no ...more
Nov 06, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
This starts out interesting but deteriorates fast. The first novel is a passable re-telling of the Legend, which Stewart summarizes in the epilogue. The second book is inferior and pretty tedious. The third book is so mind-numbingly boring, I gave up on it half-way through, abandoning my plans to read the 4th and 5th novels after reading the initial trilogy.

This book is a counterargument to all those people harping on about how long Robert Jordan's descriptions were in "Wheel of Time". A 10page
This is a trilogy that I loved to read and was a little disappointed in at times as well. The story was wonderful....sort of a practical look at the legends of Merlin and Arthur and how many of the legends could have been the result of intellect beyond it's time and coincidence. But where the book sometimes seemed to "lose its train of thought" were the parts where this thesis that seemed to lead the story, was abruptly set aside for dramatic purposes it seemed. I am sure this was intentional, f ...more
Oct 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults, young teens, preteens above age 13
I first read this series thirty years ago and loved it. I loved it all the more as I read it this year! Stewart's Arthur and Merlin are set in 6th century Britain with all the mystical gods, godesses, and emergence of Christianity that came with the withdrawel of the Romans from that island country. Arthur is shown as the inheritor of the Sword of Maximus through his father, Uther Pendragon; nevertheless, Arthur is reared as a bastard who comes into his inheritance just before the death of his f ...more
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For someone who is, for the most part, unfamiliar with Arthurian legend, this book was a warm introduction. The story is told from the perspective of Arthur's prophet, Merlin, who receives his power from what he refers to as "the god." More than anything, I was intrigued by the way that Stewart portrays the period of cultural transition following the collapse of the Roman empire-- a period during which King Arthur sought to piece together a single culture and at the same time, Christianity was g ...more
Jun 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
What a treat to read this again, all three books at once. I have read them many times before, the first time, I think, when I was 9 years old. I couldn't understand them much then, and I don't think I ever did much beyond skim the Last Enchantment and perhaps the last half of the Hollow Hills.
This is one of the best takes on Arthurian legend, and it's from Merlin's point of view. Not only is Mary Stewart's power of description beautifully strong, but she makes the shadowy, magical figure of Merl
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My husband has been after me to read these books for years; they're some of his favorites. However, since I don't really like fantasy, I've resisted.

The first book is The Crystal Cave, the second is The Hollow Hills, and the third is The Last Enchantment. They are the story of Merlin the Magician and King Arthur. Mary Stewart, the author, is an excellent writer and, though the story is based on legend, it is historically accurate as far as possible.

I told a friend who had read these books years
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book (these books). I've read them multiple times, starting as a teenager. It's a different take on the Arthurian legend, told from Merlin's perspective. Mary Stewart did a great deal of research to write these books and her notes are every bit as interesting as the tale itself. As a child, I was particularly taken by her care with names, both of character and place.

It's also worth noting that most of her villans are not the same as they were in the Arthurian legend you may be famil
Jun 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't go "looking" for this book. I stumbled across the second story in the trilogy - "The Hollow Hills" - at the local public library. Read it in a weekend,couldn't put it down. "Who is this author?" My library didn't have the other two books, but a month later a friend graciously offered me an extra copy of the trilogy. It took me six months to finish it - not because it is a difficult read, but because I didn't want it to end. I re-read the first and second books and paused a month before ...more
Sep 11, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like this type of thing
Shelves: sf
For the most part it’s very engaging. The plot moves along nicely and it’s easy to visualize. It’s also not really fantasy, more of a historical novel about the Dark Ages with some “mystical” elements here and there. I’m not sure about historical accuracy, but Stewart does seem to have done a lot of research. Merlin, as the blurb on the back of the book reminds us, is portrayed here as an ordinary man, not a magician shrouded in mystery (although others perceive him this way). He is also the nar ...more
Nov 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book very much. Actually three books in one, Stewart does an excellent job walking us through the Aurthurian legends from Merlin's point of view. We get to know Merlin in a way not possible with other versions of the tale. Knowing the basic plotline, I was intrigued by many of the subplots and sidestories so prevalent in these three volumes. The characters are well-rounded, and I found myself liking some characters and disliking others, much the way I did with "Pillars of the Eart ...more
Terri Carl
May 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fantasy/fiction fans
Shelves: fiction
I was so happy to see this trilogy is in print again and available from Amazon for the low low price of $20!! I read it in paperback years ago, and bought hard covers at an antique book market.

I have read these books a number of times. They are beautifully written, exciting, and just all around wonderful. Mary Stewart makes the magic real. A must-read for Arthurian scholars.

The books are essentially the life story of Merlin, advisor and mentor to Arthur (King of the Britons). While Arthur, of co
Mar 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Perhaps my favorite books of all time. I've always enjoyed the Arthurian legends, but this telling of them, from Merlin's perspective, resonates perfectly with what I know of the history behind the myths.

Stewart tells her tale through the eyes of Merlin the Magician, Arthur's mentor and companion. The books are Merlin's own autobiography, starting with the first memories he can recall, and ending with the mundane tasks of his daily life as an old man setting his life down on paper. In between, w
Eleanor Blair
May 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this as a child in three separate volumes and it was always a favourite, so I was pleased to receive a copy of the trilogy all together as a gift a few years back. Glad I finally found time to re-read it too. As always I think the first volume is my favourite, and the last my least, but I enjoyed all three right to the end. Would recommend especially to anyone who is at all fond of the Arthur story as this is a fascinating perspective on Merlin. A nice glimpse at the end of Roman Britain ...more
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The Merlin Trilogy 8 53 Sep 13, 2014 07:16AM  
  • Sword at Sunset
  • Lancelot Du Lethe
  • Guinevere: The Legend in Autumn  (Guinevere, #3)
  • The Young Merlin Trilogy
  • The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends
  • The Arthurian Legends
  • Firelord (Firelord, #1)
  • Sons of Avalon: Merlin's Prophecy
  • The Oxford Guide to Arthurian Literature and Legend
  • Knight Life (Modern Arthur, #1)
  • The Mammoth Book of King Arthur
  • In Winter's Shadow
  • Pendragon's Banner (Pendragon's Banner Trilogy, #2)
  • Queen of Camelot (Queen of Camelot #1-2)
  • The Killing Way (Arthurian Mysteries, #1)
  • The Idylls of the Queen: A Tale of Queen Guenevere
  • Excalibur!
  • Born of the Sun (Dark Ages of Britain, #2)
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, an
More about Mary Stewart...

Other Books in the Series

Arthurian Saga (5 books)
  • The Crystal Cave (Arthurian Saga, #1)
  • The Hollow Hills (Arthurian Saga, #2)
  • The Last Enchantment (Arthurian Saga, #3)
  • The Wicked Day (Arthurian Saga, #4)
  • The Prince and the Pilgrim (Arthurian Saga, #5)
“It does not do to neglect the gods of a place, whoever they may be. In the end, they are all one.” 23 likes
“To expect and dread a thing for a lifetime; does not prepare you for the thing itself.” 14 likes
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