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The Crystal Cave
by Mary Stewart
ISBN 0449206440 / 9780449206447 / 0-449-20644-0
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Initially published nearly thirty years ago, Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave has been spellbinding readers and converting them into serious Arthurian buffs ever since. The first in a series of four books, this novel focuses on the early life of Merlin the magician, and the political developments of fifth-century Britain. Not for the fainthearted, this verbose text pays careful attention to historical details and methodical plot development.
Merlin's childhood is formed by the absence of his reticent, convent-bound mother and his unnamed and unknown father. As the bastard grandson of a local king, Merlin is the object of both envy and ridicule. His strange powers and predictions earn him greater status as a pariah, and he leaves home as a preadolescent. Returning years later as a young man--empowered by self-knowledge and magic--Merlin finds himself caught in the currents of the shifting kingdoms.
As an established classic in this genre, and the first in a popular series, The Crystal Cave introduces this familiar character with fresh sensitivity. While readers looking for the romance of First Knight will be disappointed, those happy with tight writing and a complex story line will be satisfied. --Nancy R.E. O'Brien [via]