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Celtika: Book one of the Merlin Codex [Hardcover]

Robert Holdstock
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Jan 2001 Merlin Codex
In the centuries before his involvement with Arthur, Merlin is immortal, and almost young. He befriends Jason, seeker of the Golden Fleece, and his enchantress wife, Medea. Through Greece, Finland and other lands, to England, the skein of Merlin's tale leads to heroism, treachery and magic.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Earthlight (1 Jan 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684860368
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684860367
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.2 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 829,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

On the evidence of this ambitious beginning to a new series, Robert Holdstock is attempting to underpin virtually everything he has written since the British Science Fiction Award-winning Mythago Wood, simultaneously weaving together the roots of all Western mythology.

Holdstock's Merlin is near immortal, and as the story opens has already walked the world for millennia, an alienated narrator; an archetype it is difficult to empathise with. Occasionally he does show human warmth:

I looked at her face, so beautiful despite the greed of Time, her hair still like polished copper; into her eyes, so lovely, so clever; her breath like summer fruit; our fingers intertwined briefly. A beauty that had not faded; lost in time; almost untouchable.
Long before Arthur, Merlin has become deeply involved with Jason, The Argonauts and the legendary cycle of betrayal and bloodshed between Jason and Medea. Spinning this saga into a surreal epic across centuries, Holdstock adds the quest of the young Celtic King Urtha to avenge his wife and children, and the epic march to the Oracle of Delphi of the greatest army the world has ever seen.

Written with all Holdstock's usual skill, Celtika is a strange, convoluted, intricately plotted book. Weaving so much mythology and history into one fabric results in a distant quality akin to Tolkien's The Silmarillion, producing fantasy of particular subtlety and intelligence. While knowledge of the author's previous books is not required, those who have read them will find extra resonance in exploring these austerely magical adventures from the archetype's point-of-view. --Gary S. Dalkin


Holdstock has long been one of the most sophisticated practitioners of the SF/fantasy genre, with an imagination that never ceases to surprise and beguile. This first volume of the Merlin Codex sequence has an ambition and reach that could very easily have resulted in a grandiose failure, but the fact Holdstock pulls off his multi-stranded epic with such panache will not surprise those who have closely followed his career. The premise is that centuries before Camelot, Merlin wandered the Earth, enjoying eternal youth. Joining Jason on his quest to find the Golden Fleece, Merlin sets in motion actions that will cause him much regret hundreds of years later. The magician is obliged to set out on a trek to the north to rescue the sons of Jason, stolen by the enchantress Medea. Clearly, this is that very rare thing in the genre: a totally original concept - particularly welcome when so many fantasy tropes are tired rehashings.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not his best 5 Dec 2001
By A Customer
But still pretty good. I think if you have not read "Mythago Wood", "Lavondyss" or even "The Hallowing", you are going to be lost and probably find the characters, dry and unsympathetic.
That being said, the descriptions of the Screaming Lake are possibly some of his finest writing.
My one complaint is that there are rather too many characters in here, many with very similar looking names and I do keep forgetting who is who.
Even though the story is nominally a quest ( as so much bad fantasy is e.g. anything by Eddings ), this is saved by superb writing.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood series have proved themselves reliably excellent and here he extends that world back to a dark Celtic europe where the powers that visitors to Ryhope Wood encounter in the 20th century are everywhere.
Although this is told from Merlin's point of view this is not another straightforward Arthurian retelling- the Holdstock universe is far too diverse for that. Cleverly entertwining many strands of european mythology with a mixture of sharp imagination and deep research this is less immediate than Mythago Wood or Lavondyss but it finds its way into the back of your mind and won't let go. My only criticism is that it is perhaps a little slow to start with, but it is the first book of a series. With Celtika as a starting point it could turn out to be a very good series indeed.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book! 9 April 2001
By A Customer
I am probably Robert Holdstock's #1 American fan. I started reading his books many years ago, begining with "Mythago Wood" and "Lavondyss". I fell in love with his mystical wildwood, and this book was not a disappointment. I do think that those who have not read Mythago Wood and Lavondyss (or any of Holdstock's other books) may be a bit lost. However, it's really worth it to track down those books in order to properly enjoy the "Merlin Codex". I loved it, and I can't wait for the sequel.
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