(Cover picture courtesy of Hatchette Australia.)
Born the bastard son of a Welsh princess, Myridden Emrys — or as he would later be known, Merlin — leads a perilous childhood, haunted by portents and visions. But destiny has great plans for this no-man’s-son, taking him from prophesying before the High King Vortigern to the crowning of Uther Pendragon . . . and the conception of Arthur — king for once and always.
I’ve read so many different takes on the Merlin legend you’d think I’d get bored after this long. But of course not, especially when I read such awesome books like Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy. It’s the perfect mix of magic and realism combined with some brilliant research that makes it seem like Merlin could have been a real historical figure.
I’ll start off with the characters because they were my favourite part of the whole thing. Merlin was pretty good. He was a precocious child that grew up to be a mature young man that is slightly cynical about the world around him because he’s seen the ugly side of life. He knows the fine line between the visions given to him on occasion and prophecy and that sometimes you need to give people what they want to hear. The thing about Merlin is that he changes so much throughout the story that you can’t help but love him. Seeing him interact with Ambrosius and Uther was fascinating. Especially considering Uther isn’t the sort of man you would think he’d be in this novel. I can’t say much without giving the plot away, but Uther is probably not how you imagined he would be.
I’ll admit that the plot is not exactly fast-paced but neither is it so slow that it drags on and on. No, Mary Stewart has great pacing in The Crystal Cave and we really get to learn about Merlin on an intimate level while enjoying the plot. Unlike so many first books in historical fiction/fantasy trilogies there are actually interesting events going on rather than the author just having the first book as a prelude to the real events.
Basically if you love the Arthurian legends you can’t afford to pass up The Crystal Cave. It’s a great addition to the Arthurian canon and even if it wasn’t it’s a worthwhile read for Mary Stewart’s great writing style alone. She has this way of describing things that’s just magical and leaves you wanting more (in a good way). She never overdid the descriptions but I could clearly picture the world of Merlin. Really, The Crystal Cave had everything I could possibly ask for.
I give this book 5/5 stars.