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Guardian of the Balance (Merlin's Descendants, Vol. 1) Hardcover – March 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Series: Merlin's Descendants (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: DAW Hardcover (March 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0886778263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0886778262
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,146,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The protagonist of this first novel in a fantasy series of the tales of King Arthur is Arylwren, nicknamed Wren, daughter of Myrddin Emrys, The Merlin, and Deirdre, high priestess of the Druids. Raised among her father's wards, Wren falls in love with one such ward, Curryl, who, to no reader's surprise, turns out to be the eventual Arthur, Ard Rhi (High King) of Britain. Meanwhile, to protect her from political and religious intrigues, her father forces Wren into marriage with the abusive Carradoc, already involved in an incestuous affair with his demon-ridden, promiscuous, magic-working daughter, Nimue. Arylwren has a long and difficult journey through life, rescuing her father from Morgaine (in the novel as in legend, a sorceress) and her retainers from her husband, and eventually dying while bearing Arthur's child. This is not an impressive addition to the canon of Arthuriana, despite obvious folkloric expertise and several good passages (the two rescues head the list). Wren is more a collection of virtues than a believable human being. The author seems torn between scholarship about the Celts and modern neopagan images of them. And the sexual politics are piled on with an overly lavish hand. Much of the legend is here, including the extraction of Excalibur from the stone and the love of Lancelot and a Guinevere so pathetic one wonders what the man saw in her. Unfortunately, all the elements are so jumbled together that much of the spirit of the classic legend gets buried.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

As the daughter of Merlin and the goddess whom he serves, Wren grows up in the shadow of the boy who will one day inherit the title of Pendragon. Despite a loveless marriage and the enmity of her husband's family, Wren pursues a destiny spun for her by the goddess of the land. With this first in a series of novels focusing on the mythical bloodline of Merlin, Radford embarks on an ambitious project that should have certain appeal for fans of Arthurian legend and goddess-centered magic. A good choice for most libraries.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

I found it hard to put the book down.
pamela chismar
The characters are deep and fleshed out, they feel like real people.
Joshua Fetchik
It's ok but nothing to write home about.
Staci

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 20, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the first book in a series of novels focusing on the mythical bloodline of Merlin. This story is set in the late 5th century and early 6th century. The protagonist of this first novel is Arylwren, nicknamed Wren, the daughter of Merlin and the goddess whom he serves. Wren grows up in the shadow of and falls in love with the boy who will one day inherit the title of Pendragon. Meanwhile, to protect her from political and religious intrigues, her father forces Wren into a loveless marriage. Wren has a long and difficult journey through life and pursues a destiny spun for her by the goddess of the land, but whose contributions to Briton behind the scenes make her as important as Arthur himself. Wren must balance the old with the new and her love with her duty.

This is not the first book Radford has ever written, but it feels like it. The writing style in the first half of the book is rough, and the story line is choppy. The second half of the book things begin to move smoother as Radford's writing improves. During the first half of the book, Radford throws out details regarding many Celtic rituals and Gods with no real enhancement to the storyline, it seems almost as if she want to show off her knowledge rather than enhance her story. Thankfully, in the second half of the book the Celtic ritual details do enhance the story line and makes the reading much more enjoyable. It is the second half of the book that drew me in, and I had trouble putting it down. Radford kept most of the classic Arthurian legend details but her own spin on them that made the story seem fresh and engaging.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By pamela chismar on March 26, 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I really enjoyed reading Guardian Of The Balance. I found it hard to put the book down. It was so engrossing. This is Book 1 of a series of 5. Can't wait to read the rest.

The tale of King Arthur and Merlin, rewritten. Merlin's daughter Alywren plays a major part in the success of Arthur. The two are friends when children. Then find a taboo love with each other as adults. There are many characters in the story which aren't likable. But that only bring Wren, Merlin & Arthur so much closer to perfection. You can overlook their slight sins compared to all the happenings around them.
Lancelot's rule wasn't very big but was important. I loved the magical aspect (the fairies, witches, gods & goddesses).
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Telling of the life of Wren, the daughter of Merddyn Emrys (the Merlin of Arthurian fame), this story also recounts details of the gradual take-over of Christianity in the British Isles and the relegation of the traditional religion and worship of the Celtic deities to secrecy. Wren also plays a significant role in the life of Arthur, who is known to her as Curyll. Fostered, as are many of the children that resulted from the traditional Beltane trysts, he grows up strong and smart, but held back by a ferocious stutter. Wren travels in the summer with her father, Merlin, but during the winter they stay with Curyll's foster family. Through the years, Wren grows into her magic and goes to Avalon, where she becomes a priestess. She communes with faeries and learns mysteries. But the Saxons are converging on the land, and Uther Pendragon is near death, his disease causing damage to all of Britain through his covenant with the Goddess. Will Wren and Merlin be able to keep Uther alive long enough for Arthur to come into his own, as Pendragon in his own right? Will the balance and covenant between Pendragon and Goddess be honored, or will Britain be drowned in the darkness rising from the twin invasions of the Saxons and the followers of the White Christ, all intent on the destruction of the way of balance and Light?

As far as I can tell, the details of the Celtic/Druidic religion seem to be fairly well researched, which is nice. I found it very difficult to read about the destruction of the belief system of the Druids, as I've always been drawn to that particular structure and their pantheon of Goddesses. The fact that the book affected me so strongly is a very good sign - well-written stories will dig into your brain that way.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jodi L. Keller on April 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I just have to say that I could not put this book down. I read the entire thing in one night. If you are a fan of Arthurian Legend this is one of the better fantasy books I have read. The characters draw you in and then you're hooked!
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Radford deviates quite liberally from the Arthur legend we all know, but not enough so that the story isn't recognizable. And she takes one liberty that is essential to the plot of this and the other books in this series. In the actual legend Merlin never married, nor did he have any children - though the woman Nimue did indeed cause his downfall by seducing him. Here, Merlin breaks his vows of celibacy before the story of Arthur begins (which we learn in a brief prologue) and is punished for it by the gods.

The result of that breach of faith is his daughter, Arylwren (Wren for short), who is the actual central figure of this story. She wanders the country with her father, studies in Avalon for several years, and becomes a powerful sorceress in her own right - powerful enough to challenge both Nimue and the woman history will know as Morgan Le Fey. But her life is not a happy one. She is forced into marriage with a man she cannot love and who treats women like cattle, while the man she truly loves marries a lady named Guinevere. Nevertheless, Wren does her part to hold Arthur's Britain together for as long as she and her Da can - but in the end, as we all know, the Golden Age is doomed. Not, however, before Wren finds some happiness by perpetuating her family's line.

Radford's first book in the series "Merlin's Descendants" is a grand beginning to what promises to be a wonderful story. This is by far the best feminist take on the Arthurian legend since Marion Zimmer Bradley's "The Mists of Avalon" and its succeeding tales. I definitely look forward to the next book.
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More About the Author


Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species, a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon, she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck.

A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don't get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between.

In June of 2011 Irene returns to fantasy with a new series, The Pixie Chronicles. The first being Thistle Down." Look for "Chicory Up in 2012.

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