Thursday, 8 January 2009

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

With its mythic mists and galloping legends, fifth century Britain is fair game and Miss Stewart takes to whole cloth with a couturier's skill. This time applied to Merlin - a seer, Arthur's evil genius and resident engineer - all depending on whether you have your faultless facts from Geoffrey of Monmouth, Malory, Tennyson or a ouija board. Miss Stewart artlessly confesses in an afterword that she followed Geoffrey but loosely and gaily admits anachronisms. (There are Pendragonian sallies: "you were perhaps a little - drastic?"; or bland references to the then non-existent "Germany" or "Ireland.") In any case this is all Merlin's tune - from childhood as a despised bastard at the court of his grandfather the King, with his mother, the King's daughter, who wasn't telling who downed her in the dell.

Then after secret tutorials in the cave of an old clairvoyant and scholar, Galapos, an escape to Count Ambrosius, a ruler who turns out to be. . . . Many ceremonials, prophesies and wars later, Merlin accomplishes his greatest coup - a procurement exercise resulting in the conception of Arthur by Uther Pendragon out of the Lady Ygraine. Period play, ripe and windy, for ladies easily lulled - and there are many of them.

This is a book I have read before but, it was quite a long time ago so thought it was due a re-read.

The Merlin series is probably one of my favourite re-tellings from the Arthurian period that I have come across yet. This one concentrates on Merlin who rarely gets to be IMO the sole focus of attention in a book, or maybe its just the ones
I have read!

We get to see (or read about!) Merlin's childhood and upbringing and Merlin is the grandson of a local king, his father is unknown. I love how this book is as told by Merlin, sometimes I prefer a first person book and seeing everything through their eyes. The book covers Merlin from when he was very young up until he is mid twenties.

I loved how Mary Stewart developed the scenes of how life was like in this long ago time - the Arthurian era is one I would have loved to have lived in.


Elena said...

It's been a while, but I remember this series fondly.

If you like Arthurian tales, you might like the books by Jack Whyte. Have you read any of them?

The series starts out with Merlyn's grandfather and follows the generations down to Merlyn himself and even to Arthur and then Lancelot. The main series describes the forging of Excalibur (The Skystone) and then ends at the moment that Arthur, at his crowning pulled the sword from the stone (The Sorcerer: Metamorphosis).

Kailana said...

I wouldn't mind visiting the Arthurian era, either! We really need time machines... I also really need to get around to reading this series!

Clare said...

Thanks Elena, I haven't come across Jack Whyte but, will have a look for those, sounds interesting.

Kailana totally agree about time machines that would just be the greatest invention ever!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

This Stewart trilogy has been on my shelves (unread, as of yet) for quite a long time. Your review is just what I needed to get cracking on these!