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The Iron Grail (Merlin Codex Book 2) Hardcover – 1 Mar 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • ASIN: B000C4SX6M
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Those in the know will spot straight away from my e-mail address that I'm a fan of Holdstock's writings. I've read his work and enjoyed immersing myself in the worlds of his stories for over a decade.
The Iron Grail is a follow on to Celtika (ideally they should be read in order) and takes up soon after the stories narrator Merlin returns to Alba. Almost immediately a vividly written scene in a long hall let's the reader know that this is Holdstock at his brutal best. We're taken on slow burning quests as characters from the first book are reintroduced and their plots divert and distract. As with Celtika one is never really sure what the main story is as the reader becomes so engrossed in the immediate action.
One of the most haunting and powerful sections of the book is the introduction and explanation of the 'Argonauts of grey demeanour'; the plith of these poor souls is very well written and not a little disturbing, even if their situation is lifted directly from Celtic mythology. The Character of Merlin has lightened a little from the first book, he is now trying to juggle and deflect the attentions of 4 'enchantresses' and his desire to help Urtha recover his lost children makes him positivly likeable, no matter that his reasons are not what they seem.
The last part of the book concerns an island hopping voyage deep into the world of the Dead and Unborn. Maybe it was the switch from a Celtic to Greek based mythology but I found this to be a little disappointing. From misty murky forests we are transferred to calm seas and sunny islands - all a little too clean and shiny for my taste. It was a bit of a struggle to maintain the image of the brooding winter bound 'spirit of the ship' deep within the heart of Argo.
Once again, Holdstock has managed to deliver the goods in his strange way with another absorbing read. If you are new to Holdstock and enjoyed this book go and find a copy of Lavondyss which for me is still his most magical story.
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By A Customer on 11 Sept. 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book follows on almost immediately from Celtika and continues the adventures of Merlin and his friends and enemies who were encountered in the previous novel. Initially this one drags but like other Holdstock books gets much better once a quest has been embarked upon. By having a sometimes unreliable narrator who keeps things from the reader the book is reminiscent of Gene Wolfe. This is a good thing, as is the character of Merlin who's quite different from your standard fantasy wizard. While not as good as Mythago Wood (very few books are) this is an intelligent, sometimes thought-provoking novel that I enjoyed and I'll certainly buy the next one in the series.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars 6 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Celtika and Iron Grail 14 Sept. 2005
By HistoryShowsUs - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Any fan of mythology will love this book. Brilliantly blends ancient Greek heroes with Arthurian Heroes and a Celtic backdrop. Fast moving story with larger than life characters. I wouldnt spoil the story for anyone but this is a must for any fantasy reader. The only fly in the ointment was Mr Holdstock's chronological displacement of Greek mythological events. The Argonauts came first and then the Trojan War because one of the argonauts was Peleus, Achilles father. In fact it was Peleus' wedding that leads indirectly to the Trojan war. When Eris was not invited to the festivities she cast a gold apple to the guests which was to be given to the fairest. That apple became the prize that Paris later awarded to Aphrodite in exchange for Helen of Sparta. That being said it in no way spoiled the story any more than the changes made to the recent movie Troy. I am eagerly awaiting the third book.
3.0 out of 5 stars slightly better (3.4 stars) than the first book 3 May 2015
By inner exile - Published on
Format: Paperback
The story picks up the thread 7 years after the failed sacking of Delphi by the Celts, so we are transported back to 272 BCE. While for the ageless Merlin, "living both inside and outside of Time" (p. 130), the intervening period poses no problem, I have no idea why it took so long for Urtha and Jason to return separately from Greek Land to mist-ladden Alba – apparently, that's a quandry for the author, too, since he contradicts himself when the Cornovidi High King is talking of a "journey of two seasons" only (p. 109).
Urtha, with the remnants of his uthiin (including the Scythian huntress Ullanna), reunites with his children Kymon and Munda, who are refreshing youngsters enlivening the oft-brooding characters. After reclaiming his Taurovinda fortress occupied by an army of the Dead and Unborn from Ghostland, he sails to the unknown far west to help Jason find his son Kinos lost in time and in the dreamworld of his own making – I wonder if the spirit-ship Argo's journey to this Otherworld can perhaps be illuminated by some Jungian analysis...

Holdstock's strength lies not so much in his storytelling (I could not feel the gravity of what was at stake) but rather the haunting, at times hypnotic, reimagining of Druidic magic/lore ("the Speakers for the Past, for Kings and for the Land" p. 186) and Celtic warrior spirit. Merlin's real motivations remain vague: he summons the dead's assistance; elsewhere he is yet again seduced by his former companion/lover, the ageless enchantress Medea; or wears the forest as a cloak, etc.

"Medea sent a stag to buck against my bark, a giant creature, almost bronze in its strength and sheen...Then she despatched hornets to swarm in my branches, agonizing, distracting. She was trying to shake me off; but in her own inimitable, teasing way...Spine-backed boars, snarling and stinking, a whole family of them rushed into my roots and began to chew and paw the ground. Painful!...Our little cloaks of forest had merged. To prying eyes we appeared as no more than a patch of tanglewood; but within the bosom of the copse, Medea stood before me, half in, half out of the thick trunk of hazel that commanded the spinney" (pp. 203-7).
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading, looking ahead for book 3 22 Jan. 2014
By Raven White Wolf - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've had the first in this series, Celtica for awhile and have read it several times.
I've been busy and only recently had the opportunity to explore the story further.
I was very drawn into the continuing tale and will continue on as the story develops.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 2 Jun. 2014
By James Miller - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Fascinating view into the world of Merlin before the tales of King Arthur. I can't wait to read the last story in the trilogy.
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it 28 Feb. 2009
By J. Webster - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I loved this book. Holdstock is a wonderful writter. I did like Mythago better, but highly recommend this talented writer.
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