The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

Amazon Synopsis: Fifth century Britain is a country of chaos and division after the Roman withdrawal. This is the world of young Merlin, the illegitimate child of a South Wales princess who will not reveal to her son his father's true identity.

Yet Merlin is an extraordinary child, aware at the earliest age that he possesses a great natural gift - the Sight. Against a background of invasion and imprisonment, wars and conquest, Merlin emerges into manhood, and accepts his dramatic role in the New Beginning - the coming of King Arthur.

This was a book on loan to me by a new friend in October that I bonded with over our love of the television show Merlin and the Arthurian legend in general. It took me from October to February to read it though. Partially because of the book and partially because of the slump I was thrown into for about a third of a year.

This book is probably the most historically dense adaptation of the Arthurian legend I have read, though I have not read as much fiction on the myth as I would have liked to. It really focuses on the dark ages and the very early years of European medieval history. It was quite an intense experience as a reader especially since I originally had it in my mind this was a book for children and tweens. It is not unless you are a really avid reading 12 year old. As a history lover it was great to have such a deep look into the mystical side of this societies beliefs but it was still a shock to the system how much like a purely adult historical novel the setting was like.

If you are the kind of reader who enjoys a fair amount of dialogue in what they read then this book is not for you. You could easily go a whole chapter with no speech what so ever. The descriptions used in its place, though incredibly difficult to read in bulk at times, were written beautifully. I could imagine the world Stewart was creating vividly.She knew what she was writing and she did not need speech to make the book emotive and engaging.

The characters themselves have barely even begun. It seems like we have barely begun to scratch the surface of this myth and these characters. The book is set over a really long time span so there is a lot of character development. We really get to see Merlin grow as a person through out the book. I did have a problem with how adult Merlin seemed to be despite being very young at the beginning of the novel I tried to remember that it was a book set in a totally different social world than the one I recognise.

Despite this book making my head hurt at some points I am really intrigued as to what will happen for the rest of the story. The Crystal Cave is basically one 400 page world and situation builder. It ends when it really only just begins and so I will be checking out the other two in this series, and maybe even the companion novels, at some point to put my mind at rest.


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