The Crystal Cave

The Crystal Cave3.5 I struggled a bit on how to rate this even though I think Mary Stewart is an amazing storyteller This is the first in the Arthurian Saga series, told from the perspective of Merlin from the age of a young boy into early adulthood I was really taken in by the story of Merlin himself and the people he encountered I liked learning about the humanity of his character and what his magic was really about, and reading about the mystery behind his father Some of the parts on war and politics were a little slower for me though, but thankfully the ending made up for it After I read The Legend and Author s Note in the back of the book I thought how nice it would have been if those were in the beginning I m not accustomed to reading this time period but will say it was a nice change of pace Overall I enjoyed it and am intrigued enough to try the next book in the series since I m a fan of Mary Stewart s and love her writing style. I have spent most of this morning reading this book right to the end It is an outstanding book and the author Mary Stewart has done a brilliant job in the writing of it The Crystal Cave is the first of Mary Stewart s excellent Arthurian books, telling the story of King Arthur this time from the exciting perspective of the great wizard Merlin We are so used to reading books about Arthur and Merlin where Arthur is the key figure but this book is definitely Merlin s story and I loved reading it.The legend of Merlin begins when he is a young boy born illegitimately to a Welsh Princess and despised by the King It is set in the fifth century There are lots of books written about the life and times of King Arthur and of course the mysterious wizard Merlin Legends lend themselves to many interpretations This version is for me one of the very best of them all Mary Stewart writes beautifully with a fantastic imagination and a real way with words She makes Merlin so muchhuman by giving him a family background He comes across as a real person rather than someone whose background is shrouded in mystery The detailed story is so well written it absorbed me totally and I felt I was there with the characters living in their world.The book shows evidence of first class research into what little information we have but the end result is eminently readable as a novel. The Crystal Cave is a lush, detailed historical fantasy about Merlin the magician, from his boyhood through when he was a young man before Arthur comes on the scene It s well written and richly imagined but the pace is rather slow, or deliberate if I m being nice.So I ve been having some issues with this book which is kind of embarrassing since I m a moderator of the Mary Stewart GR group I got about halfway through this book a few months back and then stalled out It s been sitting under my bed since then while I ve gotten busy with other books I m not quite ready to call this quits and label it a DNF, but it s on hold at least for now I don t think I m inclined to read the other books in this series Mea culpa.November 2017 buddy read with the Mary Stewart group.Original post I read this so long ago, and remember it so little, that I would feel really guilty about giving it a star rating But Mary Stewart was a very talented author and I like almost everything she wrote One of these days months years I ll try reading this one again. I love Mary Stewart s work She always mixes the right amount of supernatural and realism, and here is no exception Throw out your previous ideas of Merlin, Arthur, and Magic Here s something a littleOrganic In her Arthurian Saga, Stewart mixes historical figures with figures of myth in a way that is pleasing to the historian s eye I don t mean in a true historically accurate sense, but in a way that allows you to fall into the world Details of what was left behind from Roman Rule in England cement this further, and issues that actually existed at the supposed time are woven in rather then ignored For those un familiar with the time period, Arthurian legend is supposed to have taken place in the early dark ages from the fall of the Roman Empire around 500 to almost 700 is an appropriate range This setting is not one that is conducive to a lot of what we think of as Arthurian Ideals Those weren t even introduced until the Victorian age of Romanticism Instead we are in a land where there are shambles of government, Generals without direction, old roman baths and homes from several generations ago being reused or used as a base for newer buildings, and many superstitions and beliefs that are slowly starting to meet and undergo a mutation into Christianity It is a time of Transition Our Merlin or Myrddyn if you re into the Welsh part is just as human as those around him here He is a bastard son from a roman general who had an affair with a young woman who then let everyone believe her son was devil spawn rather then admit she d slept around hm OH, and did I mention that the general was Arthur s Uncle And it getsconvoluted on a human level But Magic where s the MAGIC Oh young grasshopper, that s where Stewart handles this best You see, rather then the all mighty mystical Merlin from Sword in the Stone, We have a young Boy who learns Tricks and illusions from an aging teacher, with a little bit of pagan magical practice as well In fact, the first thing he learns is fire starting Overall, this is ahuman approach, and I prefer it.Another point to note This isn t Arthur s story This, my friends, is Merlin s The first book this one follows him from a young boy through his coming of age Identity issues and all Coincidentally, This first book ends at the Conception of Arthur. Who was Merlin Most of us know the Arthurian tales in some aspect or another, and in them each of us has an idea of the role of Merlin, the great wizard who guides Arthur to be a great king Few of us have ever stopped to think that legends spring from men and to wonder who the man was who was Merlin Mary Stewart stopped to ask that question, and then proceeded to answer it with such finesse and glory and brilliance that whatever image of Merlin you have ever held will be dispelled and only her version will ever feel satisfactory thereafter.She begins with Merlin as a boy, a bastard born to Niniane, a Welsh princess Because of his ignoble birth and the looming threat of his unknown heritage, he is either mistreated, ignored, or feared in his home and becomes solitary in his character Were he a simple boy, he would never survive his childhood, but like his mother, he is blessed or cursed with the sight , an ability to knowthan his five senses might tell him.Through a set of unique circumstances and a bit of fate, he comes to be in service to a great king, Ambrosius, and in intimate contact with the volatile and often callous Uther Pendragon, the man destined to father Arthur, the greatest of British Kings Where Stewart takes us next is on a very believable, fascinating journey that is magical in a way that has little to do with magic She breathes life into every character she presents, not only Merlin but Ambrosius, the King Uther, his brother Cerdic and Cadal, Merlin s servants Galapas the keeper of the cave, and even theminor characters like Belasius and Ulfin There is not one character, no matter how minor his role, that does not serve his function and move the story forward to its pre ordained end.Stewart has a sweeping command of the history she presents and an undeniably smooth and fresh writing style that puts you right there in the history, sharing the moment She has, as well, a deep understanding of what it is to be both human and exceptional, and we understand Merlin on both levels Then there is the charm of her subtle humor that is always so well placed and so perfectly timed that she has made me chuckle aloud and pathos so real that it has brought me to tears In the end, while explaining man, she also explains the unexplainable that is God and how He works in the lives He bestows Mithras, Apollo, Arthur, Christ call him what you will, I said What does it matter what men call the light It is the same light, and men must live by it or die I only know that God is the source of all the light which has lit the world, and that his purpose runs through the world and past each one of us like a great river, and we cannot check or turn it, but can only drink from it while living, and commit our bodies to it when we dieI first read this book in 1970, at its initial publication I can remember waiting with great impatience for the next volume to become available and feeling elated by the words between the covers It was the same response that I had to Tolkien when I discovered him, and while Tolkien has found his audience at last, Stewart is still searching for hers Stewart deserves a lotpraise and a wider audience in my view I have read these books over again several times since my first reading and find them undiminished in the enjoyment they bring They possess the power of a very good and ancient tale told in a new and fresh way They are a gift you should give to yourself. One of the best Authurian saga I ve ever read.It felt as if I were there watching the events unfold before my eyes. It s hard to put my finger on what bothered me about The Crystal Cave On the surface, it s something I should love other people whose taste I trust loved it, and tore through it it deals with Merlin, whose life I m interested in it s set in Wales I enjoy elaborations on less explored facets of the legends But somehow, it just took me far too long to get through it, and I happily abandoned it for whatever else looked interesting, given half a chance.Merlin s voice never quite felt real to me, for a start I know that it s a retrospective voice, but it s so very measured, and few parts felt truly passionate The one image that s likely to stick in my head is actually the image of Merlin travelling back to England with the king stone stolen from Ireland, while Ambrosius lies in bed dying The relationship between those two, I enjoyed Mary Stewart s Ambrosius was quite similar to Rosemary Sutcliff s Ambrosius, though, which didn t do this book any favours, since I got to the part with Ambrosius after having read Sutcliff s Sword at Sunset.The whole thing about Merlin needing to remain a virgin bothered me a little I dislike the women are eviiil and will steal your poweeer trope, even if it is balanced a little by the strong and clear headed figures of Niniane and Ygraine although I would have loved to seeof those two women as women, and not just the concern about who they were sleeping with And there were several throwaway comments about women that made me disinclined to like Merlin, e.g Duchess and slut alike, they need not even study to deceive I was also fond of a couple of minor characters, who died, which doesn t help with my disinclination to read the rest of the series Maybe someday, not now. BLURB Who was Merlin Was the famed magician of Camelot King Arthur s court really a sinister, all powerful being from another world Was he truly a Prince of Darkness Or was he a man with the passions of other mortals A man with unique intelligence unusual gifts Why was he so feared How did he come by his occult powers Why was the crystal cave so important to him 5th century Britain is a country of chaos division after the Roman withdrawal Born the bastard son of a Welsh princess who will not reveal to her son his father s true identity, Myridden Emrys or as he would later be known, Merlin leads a perilous childhood, haunted by portents visions But destiny has great plans for this no man s son, taking him from prophesying before the High King Vortigern to the crowning of Uther Pendragon the conception of Arthur king for once always.The author based this novel on a semi mythological, romantic account, written in Oxford by a twelfth century Welshman or possibly Breton As there was quite a measure of chaos after the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain, many place names suffered for it, since Celt, Saxon, Roman and Gaul shuttled to and fro across the turbulent and divided Britain.The novel relates the events prior to the birth of King Arthur, estimated around A.D 470 It is a fictitious tale that bears no historical accuracy The historical events was taken from Geoffrey Monmouth s History of the Kings of Britain, which was semi fictitious as well.It was a good read I am not interested in kings of any kind, might be a stupidity of mine, which I duly acknowledge, but enjoyed most of the book Fascinating history, really However, I lost interest in the last 150 pages of the book and skip read most of it, since it was all about war and war and war It ends with a prediction of the coming birth of King Arthur and in the end felt like reading history in novel form I was not impressed enough by the closure to rate it higher The ending bored me to tears This is the second book of Mary Stewart that I have read The author is a new selection of the golden oldies I wanted to add to my reading. 5 enthusiastic starsThe first memory of all is dark and fireshot It is not my own memory, but later you will understand how I know these things You would call it not memory so much as a dream of the past, something in the blood, something recalled from him, it may be, while he still bore me in his body I believe that such things can be So it seems to me right that I should start with him who was before me, and who will be again when I am gone Wow This book was exceptional I was admittedly quite surprised at just how much I enjoyed reading this By no means an expert in Arthurian legend, far from it in fact, I wondered if this book would really hold my attention or not Well, it most certainly did Do I dare say I was enchanted The Crystal Cave is a wonderful blend of history and mythology Recounted through the voice of Merlin himself, this first book in Mary Stewart s Arthurian saga takes us through his young boyhood as a bastard child living under the roof of his grandfather, a crowned king of Wales, right into his adulthood and ending with the conception of King Arthur My preconceived notion of Merlin, based on my scant knowledge, was of an eccentric and perhaps shifty and ruthless wizard Ms Stewart, however, introduces us to a very human, intelligent, and compassionate individual who is born with the gift of prophecy He is a friend to his servants, an avid learner, a loving son, and a very capable young man He first begins to truly understand his gift under the guidance of Galapas, an old and wise man that Merlin meets after discovering the Crystal Cave Educated in the fields of magic, medicine, languages, religion, math and engineering, Merlin is quite versatile thanks to the teachings of mentors such as Galapas and others Most importantly perhaps are the words instilled within him from the mouth of Galapas himselfThe gods only go with you if you put yourself in their path And that takes courageMerlin throughout his adolescence comes to learn about the ancient religions as well as the new religion brought to Britain from Rome Always keeping an open mind, Merlin is able to absorb the best of these and remain true to himself and his callingBut there s nothing in this world that I m not ready to see and learn, and no god that I m not ready to approach in his own fashion I told you that truth was the shadow of God If I am to use it, I must know who He is Eventually Merlin arrives on the shores of Less Britain and into the hands of the exiled king Ambrosius and his brother, Uther, both predecessors to the legendary King Arthur Here he becomes involved in a grand plot to unite Britain and rid the people of the treachery and turmoil of the current leader, King Vortigern Merlin must use all his power and not simply magic, but his intellect, clear judgment and cunning to not only save himself but to pave the way for the great king yet to come There ensued a fabulous dose of adventure and plenty of suspense which kept the pages turning I was thoroughly riveted The pacing of this novel was superb I never became bored and never once got bogged down in any of the historical details Each character was so expertly depicted and the writing is so wonderfully vivid and descriptive that one could feel transported back to this very place and time I really became attached to not only Merlin, but some of theminor characters as well The banter between Merlin and some of his companions was often witty and added an appreciated lightheartedness to the narrative from time to time Undoubtedly, Mary Stewart is a master storyteller She weaves together the threads of history and mythology in such exquisite fashion that this book should interest a broad range of readers I am puzzling over why this book is notwidely read It never felt dated rather, it seems timeless You do not need to be a fantasy buff by any means to read this book If you enjoy a great historical piece with well developed characters, effortless pacing, and vivid descriptions then this book is for you I highly recommend you do yourself a favor and pick this one up As for me, this book is going on my favorites shelf while its sequel, The Hollow Hills, should be arriving at my doorstep any day nowWhat god are you talking about I think there is only one Oh, there are gods everywhere, in the hollow hills, in the wind and the sea, in the very grass we walk on and the air we breathe, and in the bloodstained shadows where men like Belasius wait for them But I believe there must be one who is God Himself, like the great sea, and all the rest of us, small gods and men and all, like rivers, we all come to Him in the end Fifth Century Britain Is A Country Of Chaos And Division After The Roman Withdrawal This Is The World Of Young Merlin, The Illegitimate Child Of A South Wales Princess Who Will Not Reveal To Her Son His Father S True Identity Yet Merlin Is An Extraordinary Child, Aware At The Earliest Age That He Possesses A Great Natural Gift The Sight Against A Background Of Invasion And Imprisonment, Wars And Conquest, Merlin Emerges Into Manhood, And Accepts His Dramatic Role In The New Beginning The Coming Of King Arthur

See this thread for information Lady Mary Stewart, born Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow, was a popular English novelist, and taught at the school of John Norquay elementary for 30 to 35 years.She was 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 was admired for both her contemporary stories of romantic suspense and her historical novels Born in England, she lived for many years in Scotland, spending time between Edinburgh and the West Highlands.Her unofficial fan site can be found at

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  • Paperback
  • 494 pages
  • The Crystal Cave
  • Mary Stewart
  • English
  • 15 October 2017
  • 9780060548254

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