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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars

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on 27 October 2009
I first read this book about 10 years ago and it has vividly remained with me as one of the best books i have ever encountered. I love the detailed description of Britain at the end of the Roman empire, with its reflection in the names of people and places. It gives Merlin an origin and a family as well as explaining his extraordinary gifts of mathematics, science, music, philosophy and human perception. The other characters are well developed and totally believable and as others have said before me, the author has woven much historical fact in with the threads of legend. This book is where i go when i want to escape from the modern and mundane world.
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on 15 August 2014
very ordinary but OK .
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on 31 July 2008
First read this series (Crystal Cave - Hollow Hills - Last Enchantment - Wicked Day) in the seventies and it stands the test of time well.

Mary Stewart makes the best attempt I have so far read to combine most of the legends passed down to us (especially Geoffrey of Monmouth who is her main source) with such historical knowledge of the period as was available at the time. And she does it in a way that is highly readable, with convincing characters, good pace, and a version as near plausible as anything that must cover some magical element can be.

Monmouth would have voted for it.
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on 21 February 2014
Everyone will have their own view of how Merlin and Arthur should be portrayed but for me these are the best Merlin stories ever. Mary Stewart is in my opinion a wonderful writer and I enjoy all of her books.

I appreciate parts of the story are at variance with modern views of history, especially as these stories are largely based on the works of Geoffrey of Monmouth who is now considered to be flawed as an historian. Given that most of us appreciate that Merlin is not a real historical figure we have to accept that each author can take their own view as to how Merlin developed.

A word of warning to anyone who comes to this series of books from the BBC TV series called Merlin - it is not like that at all. The TV programme has for some reason made Merlin and Arthur contemporaries whereas in this book they are a generation apart.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 December 2016
Really impressive. This is an engaging and imaginative fictional treatment of the early years in the life of Merlin. Its incredibly rich and detailed, and the element that makes this a real success is how deeply Stewart portrays the personality, psychology and character of Merlin (and some of the other characters). I didn't know whether I would like this or not, but I found that I really really did - fiction or not, it has really shined a light on a period of history I knew little about. I know I shouldn't take it as a historical document, and I am not, but I do get a convincing impression that this conveys an excellent feel for what life in Britain may have been like in the 5th century.

Highly recommended; I bought the remaining two volumes in the trilogy straight away.
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on 20 November 2013
Like many fans, I first read this series too-many years ago,and was delighted to quite recently find it re-published.

This fascinating story in the hands of Mary Stewart becomes a tale of history, myth and magic, beautifully expressed. It's her very mode of expression that adds to the telling of this, and her other stories. Mary Stewart is also a poet, and it shows in her novels.

May she gain legions of younger fans to keep her name in print and enjoyed, for many years to come.

Step into her world of magic ...
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on 15 May 2014
When I read these books first, I was a young girl, and they kept me reading until the wee hours, fitfully turning page after page so I could find out more about Merlin and his world. For me, they evoked a highly realistic Britain, caught in the Dark Ages after the Romans left our shores, filled with smoke and sorcery. They are still, in my opinion, the best books written about the Arthurian legend available, and if you want to be swept away to a land of dark imaginings, then this is truly Avalon.
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on 8 September 2013
Despite all the legends about Merlin the Enchanter and prophet, he comes over as a thoroughly likeable person who has extraordinary gifts, not always appreciated by others! His father, Ambrosius, and his uncle, Uther, are also believable characters even if not altogether likeable! The story flows along at some speed (it is a page-turner) interspersed with some excellent descriptive passages which give a good idea of what Wales and Western England were thought to be like in the 5th century AD.
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on 23 July 2012
I was first introduced to the tales of King Arthur, whose realm is made magical by the intriguing wizard Merlin at six or seven. And in my teens I was very much impressed by the 1981 John Boorman movie Excalibur starring Helen Mirren, Nigel Terry and Nicol Williamson, starring a rather sinister and hard to like Merlin. Later I saw the more sympathetic Merlin in the highly engaging 1998 TV series Merlin starring Sam Neil. Have read Queen of Camelot by Nancy McKenzie which I loved and its sequels. The mediocre Pendragon cycle by Stephen Lawhead, the intriguing if drawn out Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, the Bernard Cornwell Arthur trilogy. and the somewhat disappointing Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country by Rosalinde Miles.
Only now have I had the privilege and pleasure of reading The Crystal Cave, which was written and took the world of historical fantasy by storm for the first time 42 years ago,and has been a best seller ever since.
Together with McKenzie's Queen of Camelot this one is by far my favourite and I cannot wait to read the sequels. Intriguing, engaging, a page turner, brings 5th century Britain and the story of Merlin to life.
In the early Dark Ages Britain has fragmented into a number of kingdoms and tribal entities, as the island struggles to resist invasions by the Saxon tribes from Germany which are slowly colonizing south-east England and in the west marauders from Ireland.
The fatherless son of the Welsh princess Niniane, Myrriden Emrys - better known as Merlin faces a perilous and unwanted and dangerous childhood and on the death of his grandfather the king of Dyfed must flee for his life from the murderous plans of the new king, his uncle Camlach. Captured by pirates, he takes a perilous journey to Brittany where he joins the service of King Ambrosius, who learns that he can benefit from Merlin's psychic abilities (the sight). He discovers the identity of his true father. Five years later he is a powerful young nobleman and 'magician'and returns to Britain where he is captured by the power-mad High King Vortigern, and prevents being put to death by the latter when he discovers through his mazing abilities why the great castle the king aims to build keeps collapsing. He also prophesies the death of Vortigern and the great battle between the 'red and white dragons' which will ravge the country and end with the victory of the red dragon. He sees his mother Niniane at the abbey she has retired to and experiences a hint of romance with a young girl serving there by the name of Kerridwen.
After Vortigern is defeated and killed by Ambrosius, Merlin travels with Ambrosius to Ireland to obtain a great treasure which the High King believes will give him greater power, and Ambrosius meets his end there. The novel ends with Merlin helping the new King Uther to lie with the Cornish princess Ygraine, who Uther has become besotted and obsessed with. This results in bloodshed and conception of the the future saviour of Britain Arthur.
The book is written in a way that is highly accessible to modern readers without losing the magic, mystery and awe. The characters are engaging and one really gets a feel for them. A skilled blend of history, mythology and imagination, Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy is perhaps the greatest work of historical fantasy written in the 20th century.
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on 1 November 2013
The book is beautifully written and moves along at a steady pace. It was compulsive reading at the beginning and the end but slowed down in the middle otherwise it would have 5 stars. I found it interesting in the use of place names and people. No magic tricks just visions of future events and been drawn the specific locations. The characters are all real and well developed as are the places and events, it is not just an action narrative. I have already bought the second book.
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