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Merlin's Harp Paperback – March 1, 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Merlin's Harp Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Niviene, daughter of the Lady of the Lake, sister to the faerie knight who would come to be known as Lancelot, and student of Merlin, finds her destiny in the court of the legendary Arthur. The author of A Woman's Place (1980) undertakes a lyrical retelling of the Arthurian cycle from the point of view of the faerie folk. Crompton's flowing prose creates an atmosphere in which the familiar tale becomes fresh again. An excellent addition to most fantasy and general fiction collections.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Take heed: the feminist possibilities of the Arthurian legendary cycle were not exhausted by Marion Zimmer Bradley's best-selling Mists of Avalon. In that book's manner, Crompton retells the Matter of Britain from the point of view of the Lady of the Lake, here called Niviene. From her perspective, the well-known legends become a real fairy story, for the main characters are all fairies or, in the book's term, Fey (Niviene, her mother, Merlin, even Sir Mell), and human changelings raised in a fairy Avalon (Lancelot, the Lady of Shallot). Although the resulting novel satisfies all the primal needs for narrative intensity and firm characterization, its strengths really lie in its poetic language and its finely wrought spiritual sense. The Fey philosophy is offered as an antidote to human failings as Crompton's pagan rather than Christian, womanist rather than patriarchal fairies live in unsentimental harmony with nature and with the elemental forces. A riveting good read. Patricia Monaghan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Merlin's Harp (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire; Reissue edition (March 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402237839
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402237836
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #413,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Merlin's Harp is an exquisite addition to Arthurian literature. Anne Crompton's writing is lyrical and beautiful. It
leads you into the story and keeps you there. Her very
original presentation of well known characters, well known
story lines, and even objects such as the Grail is so very
intriguing that you do not want to put the book down until
you have finished it. Her central character Niviene is
delightfully "odd" and fantastical. This is a Niviene no
one has seen before. I cannot recommend this book highly
enough. It is one of the few books that really does take
you into another world. When you put it down, when you have
read every page, you are left with a feeling of amazement
and sheer delight in the experience.
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Format: Paperback
Reading Merlin's Harp, I realized something about novels that portray the interaction between the human world and Faerie. They usually don't tell the stories of fae folk in their own homeland. There are exceptions, of course, but authors tend to focus on faeries stuck in the human world, or humans encountering Faerie. I think I may know why that is. When writing about faeries living in Faerie, it's all too easy to have nothing happen.

Anne Eliot Crompton uses beautiful, if occasionally stilted, language to draw us into her take on Arthurian legend:

"When I was yet a young woman I threw my heart away.

I fashioned a wee coracle of leaf and willow twig and reed, a coracle that sat in the hollow of my two palms. In this I placed my wounded, wretched heart, and I set it adrift on the rain-misted wavelets of the Fey river, and I watched it bob and whirl, sail and sink. Ever since I have lived heartless, or almost heartless, cold as spring rain, the way Humans think all Fey live. Humans I have known would be astounded to learn that I ever had a heart that leapt, brightened, fainted, quickened, warmed, embraced, froze or rejected, like their own."

The narrator is Niviene, daughter of the Lady of the Lake. In the ensuing chapters, Niviene endeavors to tell us how she came to the point of throwing her heart away. This ornate, image-rich prose continues, and Niviene meanders and digresses in her tale. She'll mention an old family friend, then backtrack and tell us all about how she came to meet him before going back to the main thread of her narrative.

By combining the flowery style with a narrative that is ever looping back on itself, Crompton conveys a sense of what Faerie is said to be like.
Read more ›
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I think one of the problems some have with Crompton's novels is that they are more literature than popular in style, and many modern readers, unfortunately, have lost almost all sense of even minor abstraction, instead needing things to be told simply. This is one of the problems with much of contemporary fantasy being written by and for a more game/SyFy Channel crowd than a literary one. That aside, Crompton has really done her homework on the Fey and their point of view. Also some nice twists and turns on the Arthur myth. One of the problems some readers seem to have is following the story chronologically, but considering the narrator isn't human and lives in a world of immortality and non-human motivations, I find this an interesting device. I wish the author had written more than just the three books in this universe. She seems to share with Joy Chant the same burst of three good novels and then silence, although I see she has written several children's books as well.
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I have had this book to read for some time. I bought it for the Kindle when I first got my Kindle (years ago) and just finally got around to reading it. Some of the concepts in this book are interesting but overall it is poorly written and hard to follow.

Niviene has grown up on the island of Avalon; the Lady is her mother and she doesn’t know her father. Her youth is highlighted by visits from Merlin, a half fey sorcerer. As Niviene herself grows in power she learns more and more about the mastery of her magic. Then one day Merlin requests her assistance in dealing with King Arthur; Merlin is desperate to save the peace that is slowly unraveling.

This is a retelling of the tale of King Arthur but from the fey perspective and featuring fey characters. Some of the writing in this book is beautiful but it's very hard to follow. The author jumps back and forth between Niviene's past and present kind of willy nilly. It’s very hard to figure out if you are reading about what is happening now, what happened when Niviene was little, and what had happened in the near past.

I like that Crompton did this King Author retelling with a heavy emphasis on the Fey. I also enjoyed how Merlin and Niviene are a bit high-handed and super powerful but also have weaknesses and admit that they have made mistakes in their lives.

Unfortunately the poor layout of the plot and the jumping around in time made this a struggle to get through and really take away from what could have been an amazing King Arthur retelling.

Overall I won't be reading anymore of this series and wouldn't really recommend it. The plot and way it is written is just too convoluted and confusing. I would recommend checking out Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeves for a better King Arthur tale retelling.
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