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Old 5th October 2007, 10:56 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Re: Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy

To return to the Mary Stewart books: The Wicked Day manages to be about Mordred and favorable to Mordred without trashing Arthur and the rest. To my mind, it's quite skillfully done in that respect, besides being up the level of the Merlyn trilogy in other ways.
I'm currently 200 pages in to The Wicked Day after having finished the marvellous Merlin Trilogy in the past few weeks.

The Merlin Trilogy is an excellent work, a strong narrative coupled to at least good characterization for Merlin, and to a lesser extent Arthur as well. I was really fond of the character of Ambrosius, but also of his first teacher Galapas, and Cavall his servant.

There are so many things I liked about this telling that I don't know where to begin.

I'll start with what I didn't like.
  • I thought the second book was a deal weaker than the excellent opening and closing volumes. It made me think that this trilogy wasn't as good as I always hoped it would be. Fortunately book 3 was all one could ask for.
  • I thought Merlin in the second book had moments of too much self-doubt. With his status and immense reputation I felt that he should sometimes have more faith in himself, especially when he had long since proven himself. When you see later on in The Wicked Day, or hear during the Merlin Trilogy from other characters, how deeply impressed they actually are by Merlin, his doubts seem sometimes to be silly. Yes it makes him more human, but still.
  • Ever since watching him in the Prince Valiant cartoon with that falcon/hawk I wished to read a book in which he had one. I always figured the cartoon must have gotten the idea from some book. So in The Crystal Cave this Merlin actually gets one, and I was wild with excitement. But to my disappointment Stewart does very little with this and despite the Peregrine's apparant lotalty to Myrddin, suddenly that is all over. I wished for more.
What I did like was the atmosphere of the story, the intense feeling you get for Merlin because it is first person narrative, and that this is actually about Merlin rather than Arthur; Merlin has always been teh most interesting character to me in all of literature, let alone Arthurian Legend ( a bold claim but I mean it). I think the only story where I felt more for one sinbgle main character was Fitz and the Farseer Trilogy.

Sad to say The Wicked Day is decidedly lighter a read though, with lesser characterization,. It is good what she does with Mordred in concept, but he is nowhere near as strongly characterized as Merlin. And I'd rather that Stewart would have had at least some scenes with Merlin in this sequel even if it is from Mordred's POV. Now there is nothing.
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Old 5th October 2007, 11:33 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Re: Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy

Originally Posted by Ragnar View Post
I read the first three many years ago & loved them. I've always meant to go back to them as The Wicked Day hadn't been released whe I originally read them. I may have to add them to the (ever growing) list.
OT: That's the problem with reading the Chronicles, your list of books you must have grows and grows.
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Old 5th October 2007, 11:49 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Re: Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy

I never read, "The Wicked Day," but I have to admit, the treatment of the Dark ages was excellent. On the rare occasions when Stewart discusses armour and weapons, she does seem to touch on the late Roman period rather than the classical approach seen in some recent dramatisations (the pilum, gladius, scutum, strip armour and imperial helmets were long gone by this time.) There is also the fact that they were set against fifth-century Britain and the Saxon invasion and not in an idealised medieval setting so beloved of lesser authors.
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Old 6th October 2007, 12:01 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Re: Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy

It's also interesting how Stewart deliberately pays little attention to the battles Arthur fought to establish his reign. She says that because the story is Merlin's, this was neither the time nor the place to go into them.

I did get the feeling she was happy to not have to go into them and that she preferred to write about more intimate things.

For battles people can obviously turn to Cornwell or Lawhead.
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Old 6th October 2007, 05:24 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Re: Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy

I'm glad to see this thread. I haven't read these books yet, but I picked up the three at a used book store earlier in the year and keep meaning to get to them. Perhaps this thread will be a motivation for me to get to them sooner than I ordinarily would.
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