From School Library Journal
Grade 6-9-In this fourth volume in the series, the teenaged wizard Merlin, his beloved friend Hallia, and various companions find themselves deep in the Haunted Marshes of the enchanted Fincayra Island. A mysterious force has been stirring the marsh ghouls to greater evil than ever before, and Merlin is determined to find out why. The narrative wanders as Merlin and his friends wander through the marsh; the first portion of the story is full of perilous but strangely anticlimactic moments that contribute little to the characterization of the young hero or his companions. However, the story strengthens and deepens when he walks through a mirror of mist, encountering people from his possible futures-including his own future self. Barron's depiction of the aged Merlin is strongly reminiscent of T. H. White's in The Once and Future King (Putnam, 1958): brilliant, comically absentminded, and sorrowful for things known and lost over his long life. Hints from this future life, including a glimpse of the young King Arthur and a suggestion of Hallia's fate, will draw fans of the series deeper into the saga, despite the novel's less compelling opening chapters.
Beth Wright, Dorothy Alling Memorial Library, Williston, VT
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Book four of the Lost Years of Merlin continues the saga of the young Merlin as he gains more understanding of his powers and a greater sense of self. This time, Merlin, accompanied by the young deer woman he's come to love, enters the evil-plagued Haunted Marsh in search of his stolen sword. There, he discovers the long-lost seventh Wise Tool and meets the Boy Ector, who's searching the marsh for something wanted by his unnamed master. The danger level is high in this episode; the theft of the sword is a trap intended to lure Merlin into the hands of a witch, Nimue, who is intent on destroying him. She does manage to infect him with a deadly condition, for which there is no cure. However, Ector believes his master can cure Merlin and leads him through the Mists of Time to the future, where Merlin comes face to face with his much older self trapped in the Crystal Cave by Nimue. Barron handles the contact between the two with a finesse that's believable and enhances the Arthurian ambience that has been so carefully crafted throughout the series. With lots of surprises and some laugh-out-loud humor to leaven the palpable feeling of doom, this should be eagerly devoured by the saga's fans. Sally Estes
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