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The Crystal Cave (The Arthurian Saga, Book 1) Paperback – May 6, 2003
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"The Lost Girls of Devon" by Barbara O'Neal
From the Washington Post and Amazon Charts bestselling author of When We Believed in Mermaids comes a story of four generations of women grappling with family betrayals and long-buried secrets. | Learn more
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About the Author
Mart Stewart is one of the most widely read fiction writers of our time. The author of twenty novels, a volume of poetry, and three books for young readers, she is admired for both her contemporary stories of romantic suspense and her historical novels. Born in England, she has lived for many years in Scotland.
- Item Weight : 13.8 ounces
- Paperback : 494 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0060548254
- ISBN-10 : 0060548258
- Product Dimensions : 5.32 x 1.28 x 8 inches
- Publisher : Eos (Trade); Reprint Edition (May 6, 2003)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #32,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The period when I was most susceptible to these stories happened to coincide with the time of greatest popularity of the Lerner and Lowe musical adaptation of them, known as Camelot. Come to think of it, maybe that wasn't a coincidence. How I loved that musical!
At any rate, it had been a number of years since I paid a visit to Camelot, but when Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave was recommended to me, I was intrigued. In spite of the reading I had done concerning the legends, I had never read Stewart's work. Obviously, that was a serious oversight on my part.
Stewart was an excellent writer and she pulls together all the threads of the Merlin origination story and weaves them into a page turner of a tale.
Merlin was the bastard child of a Welsh princess. His mother never told him, or anyone, the name of his father. As a child, he lived with his mother at his grandfather's court, but he was an outcast, without status or friends.
As he got older, he enjoyed wandering the hills on his own and one day he found a strange cave and met the even stranger man who lived there, Galapas. Galapas was old and wise and had the gift of "seeing," as did Merlin although he hardly knew it at the time. Galapas became his teacher and he had other tutors as well who educated him in languages, math, and engineering as well as medicine and religion. And, of course, magic.
Perhaps Galapas' most important lesson for Merlin was this: "The gods only go with you if you put yourself in their path. And that takes courage." Merlin learns the truth of that and learns to be open to the gods and always put himself in their path.
The student grows in knowledge and power and, following the death of his grandfather and the ascension of a king who is even less kindly disposed toward him, he runs away from home and ends up on the shores of Less Britain which is under the control of the exiled king Ambrosius.
Ambrosius' brother is Uther, who will one day be known as Uther Pendragon and will father yet another bastard child who will be named Arthur and given into the care of Merlin. But all of that is still in the future.
In the meantime, Stewart shows us Ambrosius attempting to bring the peoples of Britain together under one king and the parts that Merlin and Uther play in his grand scheme.
Merlin's renown grows throughout the land until he is seen as a great wizard, able to see into the future and to affect how that future evolves.
The stories here are very well known and yet Stewart manages to make them seem fresh. She weaves together historical details and myth in a wonderful tapestry that finally reveals to us the whole colorful picture. Her writing is vividly descriptive and makes the reader feel as though she is there by Merlin's side as he works his "magic." Indeed, not just Merlin but all of the characters, including relatively minor ones, were well-developed and one felt empathy for them.
This book was published in 1970 and yet it did not feel dated. It was as timeless as Merlin himself, perhaps still sleeping somewhere in his crystal cave, waiting to be called by Arthur to wake and defend the beloved kingdom once again.
"Looking back now, I see that much of what happened has been changed in my memory, like a smashed mosaic which is mended in later years by a man who has almost forgotten the first picture. Certain things come back to me plain, in all their colours and details; others - perhaps more important - come hazy, as if the picture has been dusted over by what has happened since, death, sorrow, changes of the heart."
It's interesting to read the other reviewers reactions. Suffice it to say that those in search of sorcery and specious magical display should turn elsewhere. Stewart's Merlin is really more of a poet than a magician, whose numinous encounters with the light and dark by which he prognosticates recall lines of Yeats, amongst others. This Merlin resembles Proust far more than he does a Dungeons and Dragons game in his love of solitude and completely passive awaiting of those "arrows" as he calls them from some other world to strike him:
"Like a drunkard who, as long as there is no wine to be had, thinks himself cured of his craving, I had thought myself cured of the thirst for silence and solitude. But from the first morning of waking on Bryn Myrddin, I knew that this was not merely a refuge, it was my place."
An extremely well-executed and enthralling page-turner of times long ago.
Top reviews from other countries
It wraps you up and it's sometimes difficult to distinguish the fact that it's not real.
The legend is so powerful, it makes you want to discover the truth.