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The Crystal Cave

(Arthurian Saga #1)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  42,732 ratings  ·  1,769 reviews
Fifth century Britain is a country of chaos and division after the Roman withdrawal. This is the world of young Merlin, the illegitimate child of a South Wales princess who will not reveal to her son his father's true identity. Yet Merlin is an extraordinary child, aware at the earliest age that he possesses a great natural gift - the Sight. Against a background of invasio ...more
Paperback, 494 pages
Published May 1st 2003 by Eos (first published January 1st 1970)
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Kristina These books are amazingly well-written and explore the Arthur myth. I read them when I was 12 or so and have re-read them. They are NOT fantasy books …moreThese books are amazingly well-written and explore the Arthur myth. I read them when I was 12 or so and have re-read them. They are NOT fantasy books similar to Harry Potter! These books are more about the power/political alliances and kings and queens and Merlin's role in helping Uther Pendragon come to power. I would say it demands a more sophisticated and intelligent reader--for both children AND adults. These books are much better than most of the YA crap being published now. (less)

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Average rating 4.13  · 
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Feb 01, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I actually read this book first when I was 11 or 12 and would have rated it a 5 with that self. When I was a girl I was lucky enough to be a tomboy and have male figures in my life who taught me the things I would later realize were traditionally "guy stuff". I remembered this book with a mystical fondness because I remember absolutely identifying with the character of Merlin and cast myself in the role of boy adventurer.

Unfortunately, I have to now temper that literal reading with things I am a
5 enthusiastic stars!

"The first memory of all is dark and fireshot. It is not my own memory, but later you will understand how I know these things. You would call it not memory so much as a dream of the past, something in the blood, something recalled from him, it may be, while he still bore me in his body. I believe that such things can be. So it seems to me right that I should start with him who was before me, and who will be again when I am gone."

Wow! This book was exceptional! I was admitte
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
The Crystal Cave is a lush, detailed historical fantasy about Merlin the magician, from his boyhood through when he was a young man (before Arthur comes on the scene). It's well written and richly imagined but the pace is rather slow, or "deliberate" if I'm being nice.

So I've been having some issues with this book (which is kind of embarrassing since I'm a moderator of the Mary Stewart GR group). I got about halfway through this book a few months back and then stalled out. It's been sitting unde
May 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of Historical Fiction or anything Arthurian
With COVID-19 threatening all of us and altering our lives, I have found it hard at times to concentrate on the reading I had planned. I was once asked "if you were stranded on an island, what book would you take with you?" and I responded this one. Well, I am on an island, in a way, and I needed an old friend, so I pulled out my Merlin trilogy and just finished this first book. It is a great book for reminding you what you can overcome if you have God on your side. It was time...I like to meet ...more
Aug 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fantasy lovers, Historial fiction lovers, historians on vacation, arthur nuts
Shelves: majorinfluences
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
I have spent most of this morning reading this book right to the end. It is an outstanding book and the author Mary Stewart has done a brilliant job in the writing of it.

The Crystal Cave is the first of Mary Stewart's excellent Arthurian books, telling the story of King Arthur this time from the exciting perspective of the great wizard Merlin. We are so used to reading books about Arthur and Merlin where Arthur is the key figure but this book is definitely Merlin’s story and I loved reading it.
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the early Dark Ages Britain has fragmented into a number of kingdoms and tribal entities, as the island struggles to resist invasions by the Saxon tribes from Germany which are slowly colonizing south-east England and in the west marauders from Ireland.
The fatherless son of the Welsh princess Niniane, Myrriden Emrys - better known as Merlin faces a perilous and unwanted and dangerous childhood and on the death of his grandfather the king of Dyfed must flee for his life from the murderous plan
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Crystal Cave, book1, Arthurian Novels.
A fantasy story of King Arthur and Merlin. Absolutely wonderful. A fascinating read. Made all the more intriguing because it 'reads' as historical fiction. This was my first 'fantasy' read. I expected looseness of writing and a plot that wobbled. This despite the great reviews I had read. And that Mary Stewart is the author.j
BTW Mary Stewart based her characters on Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain. Which she asserts is not held in h
Oct 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: King Arthur enthusiasts
One of the best Authurian saga I've ever read.
It felt as if I were there watching the events unfold before my eyes.
It's hard to put my finger on what bothered me about The Crystal Cave. On the surface, it's something I should love: other people whose taste I trust loved it, and tore through it; it deals with Merlin, whose life I'm interested in; it's set in Wales; I enjoy elaborations on less explored facets of the legends... But somehow, it just took me far too long to get through it, and I happily abandoned it for whatever else looked interesting, given half a chance.

Merlin's voice never quite felt real to
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 I struggled a bit on how to rate this even though I think Mary Stewart is an amazing storyteller. This is the first in the Arthurian Saga series, told from the perspective of Merlin from the age of a young boy into early adulthood. I was really taken in by the story of Merlin himself and the people he encountered. I liked learning about the humanity of his character and what his magic was really about, and reading about the mystery behind his father. Some of the parts on war and politics wer ...more
Who was Merlin? Was the famed magician of Camelot & King Arthur's court really a sinister, all-powerful being from another world? Was he truly a Prince of Darkness? Or was he a man with the passions of other mortals? A man with unique intelligence & unusual gifts? Why was he so feared? How did he come by his occult powers? Why was the crystal cave so important to him?

5th century Britain is a country of chaos & division after the Roman withdrawal. Born the bastard son of a Welsh princess wh
Jun 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
The first, and one of the very few, books that has ever reconciled me to Arthurian myth. After slogging through hideous Victorian sentimental priggishness everywhere else, this is a breath of fresh and magical air into a tired story.
Sep 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this back in the 70's & it was a favorite. Merlin tells his story from his boyhood. Read by Stephen Thorne, it's even better.

Merlin tells this tale in his old age, but usually the story moves along as if it were in the present. I liked that perspective, but it means you do have to listen closely at times. He glosses over much of his 'magic' at times, explains it at others, & that generally makes for a sense of mystery that would have otherwise have been lacking in a more straight f
Wayne Barrett

This was a reread for me. It didn't quite thrill me as much as it did the first time I read it but I still think it rates a 5.

I love Mary Stewarts take on the Arthurian tale in this series, especially this opening book where she she begins with Merlin as a child and draws out the history through him. Stewart has taken some liberties and added her own special twist to the story which, to me, brings a unique viewpoint to the legend.

Enter the pages of this series and discover the true creator of S
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was done so beautifully yet holding such immense intelligence cognition/ definition that I will think about this for some long hours as I write this. It's a composite of a man who was a poet, priest, scholar, engineer, doctor, sometimes Prince, and wholly too a massive and ultimate manipulator. Merlin is done here to his humanity as much as to his wizardry. The language skills and descriptive sense of surroundings to grasp the internal meanings are fully poetic. Sometimes expressed in poetr ...more
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

How does Mary Stewart do what she does?

With the best of her books she takes me into another world so completely that I am snarling "What???" at anyone foolhardy enough to try to make me look up from the pages of her book.

The descriptions are beautiful & often poetic.

Consider this;

Then she saw me watching her. For perhaps two seconds our eyes met and held. I knew then why the ancients armed the cruellest god with arrows; I felt the shock of it right through my body.

I wasn't familiar with the
Oliviu Crâznic
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dark-fantasy
Exquisite tale, exceptionally well written, very suspenseful and pretty close to the legend.
It probably inspired the best „Merlin” series - the Sam Neill one and the BBC „(Young) Merlin”.
However, one star out for the occasional (thank goodness: one or two more would have ruined the book!) anticlerical, antiChristian and also historically false remarks (e.g. it is very well known to everyone who reads history the fact that, contrary to misconception and propaganda, Christian Church was not again
Stephen Robert Collins
I know read this but years ago & the author died in 1983 so this new edition it in style of T H White not brilliant it's no Karelian Maitland more Pear S Buck romantic than true lot of Barbra Cartland than 'real' villant knights what some people claim 'a woman's book' ...more
There's still a lot about The Crystal Cave that bothers me, but I think, on balance, I liked it better now than I did the first time I read it. As I've said, it's Misogynistic Merlin, which is my least favourite flavour -- you have some clear-headed, quick-thinking, powerful women, but then you have lines like this: "Duchess and slut alike, they need not even study to deceive." And the whole bit about weak female magic and Merlin needing to be a virgin and blahblahblah. Could definitely have don ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hf-euro, sff, britain, 1970s
By far my favorite Arthurian era novel. Multiple reread.
Crossposted from my blog

2 Stars

I’ve spoken about my love of all things Arthurian before, so I was really expecting to enjoy this book. All the ingredients are there – it’s centered on a character I normally like, on events that are often just skated over as prologue, and grounded in more unique ‘realistic’ Dark Age Britain than the typical ‘castles and knights’ setting. It was also pretty popular back in its day. Alas, I learn, yet again, that popularity often has little to do with quality. It’s
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this for the Dead Writers Society Genres for Everyone September 2016 challenge.

You know when I was a young girl the story of King Arthur and his knights of the round-table fascinated me. I read every book about Arthur I could find and even read Le Morte d'Arthur and had to go digging in my dictionary to figure out certain words. There was something about Camelot, the idea that a King who believed in truth and justice and was surrounded by men who were loyal to him (we will discuss Lancel
I have always loved the Arthurian legend : whether you like fantasy, adventure, romance, crazy family sagas or war stories, you’ll find something to like on that classic tale of wizards, questing knights, fainting ladies and court plotting. The problem is always finding a version of the story that manages to balance these elements out and keeps the story engaging at the same time. My favorite used to be “The Mists of Avalon”, but a re-read last year made me feel like it didn’t stand the test of ...more
As a child, I loved this series to death. I can blame Mary Stewart and Hallmark's telemovie, Merlin, for my obsession with a historical basis for the Arthurian legend, and in particular, for my obsession with a realistic Merlin.

On re-reading, Stewart's prose is as lyrical and as lush as ever, with her love for Welsh place especially shining through. My favourite sections were those towards the beginning of the story before Uther and the familar tread of well worn legend kicked in. The attention
3.5/5 Yay! I finally finished a book!
The crystal cave is the first in an Arthurian retelling saga. Told from the perspective of Merlin, it follows him from a young boy to a young man in his late teens/early twenties.
Overall, I really enjoyed it! I love how she incorporated so many different elements from the original legends while still making them new.
I think my biggest complaint was lack of character development. Even Merlin didn't feel very developed and he was the one telling the story! It
I really loved this one. It kept my attention throughout, and I'm excited to read the rest of the series. King Arthur legends are always exciting and fun to read! ...more
Oct 29, 2017 rated it liked it
I recently saw Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, which was batshit insane and thoroughly enjoyable. Alas, King Arthur bombed so hard that Guy Ritchie will not get to make his Merlin movie, which is too bad because (a) it would have been LIT and (b) it could have followed the plot of this book without straying too far out of Ritchie's universe. There are several plot elements in this book that make little to no sense (view spoiler) ...more
Lindsey Sablowski
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is fantastic. Mary Stewart obviously took the time to go through with a lot of researching of legends and so forth to form this saga. I never imagined there would be a book about King Arthur where I could be dying to know more. This saga is the reason I fell more in love with the stories of Camelot. Stewart brings forth a cast of familiar characters, and the adventure is very exciting. The story is told from Merlin's point of view, though in one of the stories the POV changes over. You ...more
Sotiris Karaiskos
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, mythology
From time to time I have read lot of modern works based on the history of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, but all in the end all left me somewhat unsatisfied. T.H. White's classic version is very light, the very popular version of Marion Zimmer Bradley seemed to me too much New Age for my tastes, while the most recent of Bernard Cornwell is just a very... Cornwellish. So since I read these versions I was looking for something that would please me more. If I found it in what Mary ...more
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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, an

Other books in the series

Arthurian Saga (5 books)
  • 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)

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