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Mad Merlin Mass Market Paperback – August 13, 2001

19 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Arthurian Triptych Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A prolific author of game-related fiction (Blood Hostages, etc.) gives a distinctive and often agreeable spin to the story of Camelot. Focusing his attention on Merlin rather than on the usual Arthur, King weaves his tale by combining bits of folklore and mythology with both sheer invention and historical fact. In this version (which begins before Arthur's birth), the wizard is actually the Roman god Jupiter--but, due to a curse, he can't remember who he is, and he can't tell reality from dreams. He knows, however, that there's a boy (Arthur) not yet born who can cure him. So Merlin arranges Arthur's conception and whisks him off to a distant kingdom. As Arthur grows into a man, Merlin does, indeed, regain his memory; along the way, the boy learns the art of kingship and prepares to claim his rightful place as the ruler of Britain. Much fighting--against King Lot, the Saxons, Wotan and nearly the whole Germanic pantheon--ensues. King's unconventional take will not please fans of more conservative Arthurian tales. Action fans, on the other hand, will thrill to his frequent and well-told accounts of battles, both material and magical. Creative plot twists abound--Guinevere, for example, turns out to be one of the Tuatha De Danaan, as well as Arthur's footholder (meaning their marriage must remain chaste). Other characters with a distinctive flavor round out the story. This novel will appeal to those who like their Arthurian tales on the zany side. (July)

Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

From his involvement in the rise of Uther Pendragon and the birth of Arthur to the height of Camelot's power, the wizard Merlin labors under the curse of his destiny even as he seeks the truth of his identity. King's first nongaming fantasy relates the familiar tale of King Arthur as a background to his exploration of the enigmatic personality of Merlin. Drawing on ancient Norse, Celtic, and Roman myths, King crafts an unusual blend of history and legend that should appeal to fans of the Arthurian cycle. For most fantasy collections.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Mad Merlin (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Fantasy; 1st edition (August 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812584279
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812584271
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.1 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,136,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Elaine Cunningham on July 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
...and I've read a LOT of Arthurian stories. Quite literally dozens of them. I found Rob King's retelling of the Merlin myth to be firmly grounded in tradition, yet strikingly original.
The first thing that impressed me was Merlin's voice, and the way the deft characterizations swept me into the story. The second thing that hit me was the writing style. It's impressive. So are the underlying ideas, and the cohesive vision painted from the lore of many cultures. The author is unusually literate, both in his use of language and his wide-ranging knowledge of classic and mythic lore. This is not to imply that the book is stodgy and academic. To the contrary. This book has both depth and sparkle. Rob King's sense of humor is disarmingly off-beat. This is clearly the work of someone who loves the sounds and shapes and textures of words. As such, it offers a genuine and rare treat for like-minded readers.
I'm guessing that fellow Arthurian buffs, an admittedly varied and contentious group, will find much to enjoy here. The book is both fresh and familiar. I found myself sometimes nodding in recognition, and sometimes delighting in new explanations to well-known situations. The motivation behind the characters and events is cohesive and believable. The story behind Excaliber, in particular, was startling, but logical and resonant.
Although most of Rob King's previous work has been in game-related fiction, his fans will not be disappointed. There's enough action to please the most avid readers of adventure fantasy. The battle choreography is exciting and visual. And it's hard to imagine anyone who wouldn't warm to Merlin's sublime silliness.
A word about characterization: terrific. The scene that introduces a young and boastful Kay is both funny and spot-on.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Niles on August 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
J. Robert King has taken a familiar story and given it a new point of view and a very fresh interpretation. Where Merlin is so often portrayed as the shadowy figure lurking around the edges of the tale, King dives right into the old wizard's tangled psyche. The writing is lively and vibrant, the language inspiring.
Unique plot twists include explanations for the origins of Merlin and Excalibur--each a stunning and poignant surprise--and the use of a host of gods, faeries, and other enchanted beings struggling for survival in the dawn of the Christian era.
The book opens with Merlin wallowing in the depths of complete insanity, unaware of his own origins. The quest for that identity provides an excellent element of mystery, with an utterly satisfying resolution. The magic in this tale is powerful and dramatic. King makes no attempt to explain his wizard as some kind of master of alchemy and sleight-of-hand--this is a mage in the classic Gandalf archetype (though, I suppose, it was originally Merlin who was the archetype for Gandalf!). In any event, he can fly, hurl fireballs, change his shape, and carry whole armies on swift, magical marches.
This book will have strong appeal to all lovers of the Arthurian legends, and also stands alone as an epic of high fantasy. One caveat: King does not recount all the elements of the classic King Arthur story...I have a feeling that readers might be waiting (rather impatiently) for a sequel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Stories about King Arthur and the other people of the legend can be looked at as being similar to the same situation that is being addressed in the excellent TV show "Smallville". We Know that Clark is fated to become Superman. We Know that he and Luthor will become enemies. We Know that Kryptonite will kill him, he'll have certain powers as an adult and that he will move to Metropolis and... Yet the delight in this show is its take on how Clark gets there. The stories the show tells are good on their own, but they hang together because of what We know will be. In other words, we don't really worry aobut why or how Clark is getting these powers because we Know that he is supposed to. The references placed in the show to "their" future are an extra treat. We accept this interpretation of that future will come to be because we already know what that future is and the adventure is filling in the details and seeing how it all fits into what one day will "be".
This story has to be looked at in the same vein. There are a lot of gods, godesses, Celtic and Norse mythology and even some T. H. White thrown into this mix, all hung on the framework of what we "know" of Arthur. We Know there's going to be a Modred and that Morgan will bring him into being from her hate for Arthur becuase of what Uther and Merlin did. The story doesn't have to explain her motivation for that hate more than that because we Know that hate exists. It is not a "classic" Arthur, but it fits within the frameowrk. Jack Whytes wonderful "Eagles Brood" series or Godwin's superb "Firelord" aren't "classic" either, but tehy do fit within teh History and events of Arthur as we Know them. Does the retelling under inspection remain true to the legend even if the details vary?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Morrison Lewis on July 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As the child of someone who studied the King Arthur in great depth, I have been fascinated with Arthur, Merlin, and the whole lot. It is a story told and retold throughout time, and is rarely looked upon with such a fresh set of eyes.
This is not the standard fair for an Arthurian Mythos; In fact, Mad Merlin is, in many ways, quite the departure. Fair enough. There are far more views of the legends than are adequately represented in the thousands of fiction stories.
Gone is the Merlin who was the quiet orchestrator, the man with a plan who pulled the strings behind it all. In his palce, we find an endearing and often humorous, yet tragic wizard. His memories are wracked by delusion, a madness to which he believes Arthur to be the cure.
Merlin is haunted by delusions so intense he cannot seperate them from reality, which leaves his memory in a fragile status. Had he really been there? Did he dream the past? Was he dreaming of his salvation, or were his visions true?
Woven into his madness are gods and the God-Killing sword Excalibur, and the boy that would grow to save him. Through his visions, he orchestrates the birth of Arthur, and he and Ulfius train him so that he may one day become King. Ulfius is a practical man, while Arthur tends to follow "Grandfather" Merlin with awe, latching onto his delusions and fantasies all the while.
The first half of the book deals with Arthur's birth through the beginning of his reign, as naysayers challenge the right of a sword-puller to claim the throne. It also deals with the recovery of Merlin's sanity, and his final memories--Both of his origin, and of Excalibur. The second half deals with the aftermath and the forging of the great Kingdom.
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