Monday, 15 February 2016

Arthurian Saga - Book 1

The Crystal Cave
By Mary Stewart



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 who will not reveal to her son his father's true identity, Myridden Emrys--or as he would later be known, Merlin--leads a perilous childhood, haunted by portents & 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 & the conception of Arthur--king for once & always.

Source: Goodreads

My rating: 4.2 / 5
My Thoughts:

Presently, my TV series addiction is the BBC's Merlin. I've seen adverts in relation to this for years but never thought the show could be my kind of thing, that was until I subscribed to Netflix and it appeared as a recommendation. How have I deprived myself of the awesomeness of Merlin for so long??!!!

TV Series, being what they are, eventually end (unless they're EastEnders and then they're never ending!) and alas, I'm coming to the end of series 5 but I'm just not ready to let it go! And so, I've been researching into books relating to the Arthurian Legend. One of the most recommended series is the Arthurian Saga trilogy by Mary Stewart so I thought of giving it a try...

The Crystal Cave is essentially the build up to the birth of the future King, Arthur's. Merlin learns more about his powers of the Sight, which are both awed and feared by many other kings in this time of war. As Crystal Cave is the first book in the trilogy, there was a lot of narrative and worldbuilding, which at times became tedious to read. However, I completely understand that this is essential for a fantasy series so I wasn't too bothered about that.

To my delight, Merlin retains the wit and dry humour shown by Colin Morgan on the BBC. His risk taking and easy going personality kept the story going and I loved reading about his many adventures, especially his banter with his servants. Ideally, I would have liked Arthur to have made an actual appearance in this book (their TV bromance is hilariously adorable) but Crystal Cave is like a prequel to Arthur's story; the battles leading up to his birth and how important his arrival was to Merlin's destiny and therefore, the future of Britain.

"The gods only go with you, Cerdic, if you put yourself in their path.""Well, all right, but some of them have mighty big hoofs to walk over you with. Do you want Christian burial?""I don't really mind. I suppose I'll work my way up to Christian baptism fairly soon, if the bishop has his way, but till then I've not signed on officially for anyone."
I was surprised to learn that Merlin himself is, or was, a prince. On the TV show, he's portrayed as Arthur's servant boy but in this book he is seen a far more powerful light. To have a claim to the throne but not consider it twice is not something most people could do but it becomes clear that Merlin is unlike most people. Once I learnt more about his nature, his generous and straightforward personality, I wasn't surprised at this, indeed I doubt it had even crossed his thoughts until the King pointed it out!

Overall, the crystal Cave was a very interesting read and I'm now proceeding to book two. Although, I would like to know how much of the book, the TV show and Disney's Sword in the Stone movie is based on actual history? Has anyone read / watched any of these? Any thoughts?

Favourite Quotes:

"Because they are not for me. I have feared for other men, but never in that way for muself. Not yet. I think what men fear is the unknown. They fear pain and death, because these may be waiting round any corner. But there are times when I know what is hidden, and waiting, or when - I told you - I see it lying straight in the pathway. And I know where pain and danger lie for me, and I know that death is not yet to come; so I am not afraid. This isn't courage."He said slowly: "Yes, I knew you had the Sight."

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