on 21 January 2009
When Geoffrey Ashe is the author, I know I can rely upon my attention being grabbed and held, and that from the first page to the last I will be absorbed by his amazing ability to conjure images of a world long gone. This book doesn't fail, and I am delighted with it...except for one thing. It doesn't have an index. This is all very well if you only want a book to read read from cover to cover and then put aside until the next time you feel like reading it. However, if, like me, you like to dip into it for specific things, an index is essential.
If it weren't for this niggle, I wouldn't hesitate to give five stars, but an index is important to me.
Merlin is an important figure in the mythology and literature of Britain - and indeed Europe. But we have few facts about his life.
If you want a matter-of-fact but short exposition of the main literary sources of the Merlin legend - this is a good place to start. If you want to know whether Merlin the enchanter really existed, you will always be disappointed. Such questions will probably never be answered.
Geoffrey Ashe is an acknowledged authority and writes in an accessible style. One minor quibble - much of it is told in the present tense. There are times when you are unsure whether you are reading yet another tall story, or real archeological evidence.
Probably the former, as the latter is almost completely absent (sadly).