Merlin by Stephan Lawhead
Genre – Christian, Fantasy, Historical fiction
Series – 2nd book in The Pendragon Cycle
Rating – PG-13 for violent battles
Well folks it took me a wee bit, but just finished Merlin! Let’s just say I really enjoyed this book!! Last summer I read Taliesin which surprised me. You can see my thoughts here – Review for Taliesin
As I’ve talked about before, legends, particularly Robin Hood and Arthur, are really intriguing and speak to me. I love the quests and adventures and how that changes them. Recently, I’ve been in the mood to continue this series. Overall, I liked Merlin more then Taliesin. Being able to hear his thoughts helped a lot!
Merlin was born to two parents of noble lineage. His mom Charis, a lost princess of Atlantis who came to Britain seeking refuge. She married Taliesin a Bard who became a king to his people. Because of this, Merlin was well taught in everything from sword craft to the art of a Bard. Hafgan and Dyfed, and Blaise teach the young lad everything they know. Especially when it comes to Jesu who is The Great Light. In his 12th year Merlin is captured by Hill folk and separated from all he holds dear. What will he do? Will he find his purpose in life?
My Thoughts –
So far this series has taken a different take on the Arthurian legends. It has more Celtic roots with a dash of fantasy thrown in for good measure. To me the characters in Merlin were an upgrade. We can see their thoughts and what drives them. Plus, I liked Charis as a person, she felt more down to earth and humble. Ygerna is another strong female character. Call me weird, but I did not care for Ganieda. She felt flat. Now Dyfed was fascinating. I loved seeing the shift from being a Druid to Christianity. Dyfed really stood up for the truth and had an impact on Merlin’s life.
I really enjoyed getting to see a young Merlin. So often we see the tail end of his life with setting up Arthur. The only other place I’ve seen him young is in show The Adventures of Merlin which I love!! His path in life wondered a bit, which seemed realistic to me. He honestly had no clue what to do with his life. Although I was kinda surprised Lawhead made him a king. I loved the qualities that he gave Merlin, of being an upright and truthful young man.
For this particular book the plot meandered and was a slow burn. I truly didn’t mind that when you did have action it moved along quickly. The whole battle in slow motion was cool reminded me of Alistair Coldhollow’s ability from The Mydrian Constellation series. Personally, I loved the Celtic angle with all the kings of their own slice of land and then seeing the progression to having one British High King. There were times when I wanted the plot to move closer to the legend, but I got used to it.
Lawhead did something unique and almost entirely removed magic from the tale. Instead Merlin has visions, does miracles, along with a slow-mo fighting ability. There is a small dose of magic with the Hill Folk, but its not the spell or incantation kind. I didn’t really like the Fhain/Hill folk, but they valued their children more then gold which was neat. Also, we see Druid beliefs and how Christianity impacts and changes the Druid ways.
Overall there are many Christian themes and beliefs woven throughout. Several of the characters follow Jesu or Christus as they call him. We hear some of Merlin’s prayers as he asks for guidance. Several of the Druids convert to Christianity and they become priests and Bishops. We hear the gospel preached at a service.
I wanted to add a new section for favorite quotes:
“Wisdom will be given when wisdom is required, courage when courage is required. All things are given in their season” (p. 35).
“The body knows it is dust, and will return to dust in the end, and it grieves for itself. The spirit, however knows itself to be eternal and glories in this knowledge” (p. 134).
“Darkness has no power over light, and no power on earth can move me if I do not wish to be moved” (p. 259).
Language – Occasional uses of a certain word although typically used in its proper form. Also, a demon swears.
Violence – There are only a handful of battles, but one in particular got a bit gruesome. There is a surprise ambush and only a small force to defend the land. Ganieda is violently killed with multiple stab wounds and they killed her unborn baby and see a blue finger sticking out. Merlin then goes on killing spree and kills many Saecsen barbarians. We are told bodies lie all around and the river turned crimson. Later on, a few characters are poisoned and killed.
Innuendo – Merlin and Ganieda get married. They prepare for their wedding night and lie in each others arms. Thankfully that’s the extent of it. Two brothers fall for the same women and false rumors spread about her.
Merlin was the perfect mix of fantasy with historical fact. Ancient Britain is a fascinating place filled with warlords and invading barbarians. You have noble kings who stand for what is right and a receding Roman empire about to crumble. A young man goes on a journey to find his purpose in life and ends up uniting a tattered kingdom. This book was a perfect way to spend my spring break! Definitely not a book you will finish in one sitting, but I highly recommend it if you love legends.
Up Next – I’ll be starting Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, its been a while since I’ve read sci-fi.