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The Crystal Cave (1970)

by Mary Stewart

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Arthurian Merlin Saga (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,032821,520 (4.06)2 / 335
Born the bastard son of a Welsh princess, Myridden Emrys -- or as he would later be known, Merlin -- leads a perilous childhood, haunted by portents and 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 ... and the conception of Arthur -- king for once and always.… (more)
  1. 40
    Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb (LiddyGally)
    LiddyGally: Both "autobiograhical" accounts of the life of a man with powers of a magical kind, told from boyhood to manhood. Compelling writing makes for a great read and memorable story!
  2. 30
    Idylls of the King by Alfred Tennyson (myshelves)
    myshelves: Tennyson's classic rendering of the Arthurian legends in verse.
  3. 30
    Twilight of Avalon by Anna Elliott (Kasthu)
  4. 20
    Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff (Anonymous user)
  5. 64
    The Once and Future King by T. H. White (myshelves)
    myshelves: Basis for the play/movie Camelot.
  6. 10
    Storyteller by G. R. Grove (Rowntree)
    Rowntree: Adventures in Britain a generation after King Arthur.
  7. 10
    L'ultima Legione by Valerio Massimo Manfredi (Bookshop_Lady)
    Bookshop_Lady: Mary Stuart ties the Arthur legend to Rome through Ambrosius and his brother Uther. Valerio Massimo takes a slightly different turn to the story: The Last Legion is the story of the last Roman emperor, who fled to England searching for the last legion of Roman soldiers, hoping they would still be loyal to him. This last emperor, a youth of about 13 when he attains the throne, will grow up to become Uther Pendragon. Fan's of Mary Stuart's trilogy will appreciate Massimo's interpretation of the Arthur legend.… (more)
  8. 10
    A Traveller's Guide to the Kingdoms of Arthur by Neil Fairbairn (myshelves)
    myshelves: Non-fiction guide to traditional Authurian sites.

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English (80)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (82)
Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
Another reread of a long-time favorite, that unfortunately didn’t stand up so well this time around. The central storyline of this first part of Stewart’s Arthurian cycle focuses on Merlin’s youth and growth to power and is engaging enough. But I don’t recall the first third being as ponderous as I found it this time. This time around I also found some of Stewart’s storytelling choices jarring and the language anachronistic at times. ( )
1 vote gothamajp | Aug 26, 2020 |
Read, favourite. ( )
  sasameyuki | Aug 11, 2020 |
I read this for the Dead Writers Society Genres for Everyone September 2016 challenge.

You know when I was a young girl the story of King Arthur and his knights of the round-table fascinated me. I read every book about Arthur I could find and even read Le Morte d'Arthur and had to go digging in my dictionary to figure out certain words. There was something about Camelot, the idea that a King who believed in truth and justice and was surrounded by men who were loyal to him (we will discuss Lancelot later) that inspired everyone around him. I also kind of hated Guinevere. I just never got how she and Lancelot did what they did and I was also not a fan of Merlin. In every story of Merlin, he was always a manipulator of everyone around him and didn't seem to really care for Arthur all that much either.

This work by Mary Stewart really goes into Merlin's backstory, who he was, who his family was and how he is also related to King Arthur (which I loved).

Told in the first person, we follow Merlin from when he was a young boy til he is in his 20s (I am guessing here in the end). Merlin is despised by his maternal grandfather, a man who is a Welsh King. Technically Merlin is a son of a princess, but his mother refuses to name his father, so he is harassed and beaten by those around him for being nothing more than a bastard. When Merlin's uncle Camlach comes home, Merlin hopes this means better things for him and his mother. Instead, he realizes he is seen as a threat to his uncle and eventually he will be done away with.

I really thought the character of Merlin was so complex in this book. He wants to just serve someone, anyone, and have just a drop of affection spilled his way. Hell I thought his mother, Niniane barely spoke of any love for her son. She saw and had to know what was being done to him, and she just wanted to be off to a convent and didn't seem to really care about what would happen to her son until way later in the story.

When Merlin finally manages to escape from his uncle's clutches, he finds himself off and figuring out who his real father is. I thought that was a great surprise and I loved how Mary Stewart weaved everything together.

I liked a lot of the secondary characters in this one like the servants who love and will die for Merlin (Cedric and Cadal) and he does find himself a purpose.

I really wish we had gotten a point of view or something from Merlin's mother though. I definitely felt like I got insight into his father's character throughout the book. But Niniane remained a mystery to me even after we figure out who Merlin's father is and why she never said his name. She just seemed really focused on joining a convent and that was it (foreshadowing to Guinevere maybe?)

We get introduced to Arthur's parents in this one, and wow I still hate the characters of Uther and Ygraine no matter what book I read. These two are seriously selfish. And their justification for the crap they do (love) and then how Uther tries to blame Merlin I pretty much rolled my eyes too.

A lot of the writing in the book I thought was a bit too hazy on details and often we just skipped over things that I wish we had spent more time on. I wish we had not fast forwarded through Merlin's years with his father. I would have loved to read more about that. Frankly I wish the first book had not ended the way it did, but I guess we had to get to the whole subject of Arthur much faster in book number two.

The flow was pretty slow though throughout the book (one of the only reasons why I am giving this four stars). I loved what I was reading, but after a while my eyes did start to glaze over a bit. It only really gets going when Merlin is interacting with others. Otherwise there is just a lot of and then this happened, and then this other thing happened, and oh yeah one more thing happened.

The setting of a Britain prior to it being unified under one King was something else. And I do recall reading about the Saxons later on in high school and college, but seriously all of the battles started to run together to me. I got so bored and was glad when I got past those.

The ending set things up for book #2 with Merlin knowing that he is going to be given Arthur and mold him to be king one day. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
Oh. Wow. It is truly an amazing book, a groundbreaking look at Arthur through the eyes of Merlin, and one that acknowledges the disparate bits of history that are traceable as well as Geoffrey of Monmouth's legends. The historical bits are the post-Roman Britons who are struggling to hold onto their lands amidst the constant invasions of the Saxons and the perceived betrayal of the Lord/King Vortigern in his alliances with the Saxons.

In this re-telling, Merlin is the bastard son to a noblewoman, whose father is Ambrosius Aurelianus, exiled to Brittany. Ambrosius is brother to Uther who will later be the Pendragon and father to Arthur, but until then, Ambrosius must claim his crown and train his retainers in fierce fighting and moveable military camps. Merlin's upbringing, his servants, his journey, and his education are well-told and full of an appropriate combination of speculation and research. And also in this book is an embrace of the element of magic through the Sight as well as an intelligent mind. And darkness and mist.

I can see why it was better that I read it at an older age instead of in the "Arthur must be medieval!" thinking of my teens. The historical Arthur was of a certain time period and the court customs of the Middle Ages were definitely anachronistic to his history. On the other hand, there is quite a thrill to see "Excalibur" or to read the poetry of Mallory. I highly recommend this book for students of this legend; it is probably the foundation of modern Arthurian tales. ( )
1 vote threadnsong | Jul 21, 2019 |
There are a lot of versions of the King Arthur/Merlin stories out there, but in my opinion this THE BEST version! I love the way Mary Stewart weaves in all the legend and myth into one cohesive story. I re-read the whole series again every few years! ( )
  aimee | May 17, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
Eerste deel van een trilogie over het leven van de legendarische tovenaar en helderziende Merlijn. Hij leefde in het Brittannië van de vijfde eeuw en was in zijn latere leven de opvoeder en raadgever van de grote koning Arthur. Dit eerste deel omvat het verhaal over zijn geboorte en eerste levensjaren, doorgebracht aan het hof van zijn grootvader, de koning van Zuid-Wales. Verder: de ontdekking van de glazen grot en zijn opleiding bij de ziener Galapas. Het boek eindigt met de geboorte van koning Arthur. Een boeiend verhaal over deze magiër; door haar levende verbeelding en vlotte schrijftrant weet de schrijfster de lezer van begin tot eind te boeien. Wordt vervolgd door: "De holle heuvels". Normale druk, volle bladspiegel.
(Biblion recensie, J. v. Leeuwen-v.d. Tempel.)
added by karnoefel | editNBD/Biblion (via BOL.com)

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Stewartprimary authorall editionscalculated
Thorne, StephenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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O Merlin in your crystal cave
Deep in the diamond of the day,
Will there ever be a singer
Whose music will smooth away
The Furrow drawn by Adam's finger
Across the meadow and the wave?
Or a runner who'll outrun
Man's long shadow driving on,
Burst through the gates of history,
And hang the apple on the tree?
Will your sorcery ever show
The sleeping bride shut in her bower,
The day wreathed in its mound of snow,
And Time locked in his tower?
----Edwin Muir
To the Memory
of Mollie Craig
with my love
First words
PROLOGUE: The Prince of Darkness

I am an old man now, but then I was really past my prime when Arthur was crowned King.
BOOK I: The Dove

The day my uncle Camlach came home, I was just six years old.
BOOK II: The Falcon

The first I knew of our coming to shore was being roused, still heavy with that exhausted sleep, by voices talking over me.
BOOK III: The Wolf

I was five years with Ambrosius in Brittany.
BOOK IV: The Red Dragon

The way the chronicles tell it, you would think it took Ambrosius two months to get himself crowned King and pacify Britain.
"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 die." -- Merlin
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Born the bastard son of a Welsh princess, Myridden Emrys -- or as he would later be known, Merlin -- leads a perilous childhood, haunted by portents and 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 ... and the conception of Arthur -- king for once and always.

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Was the famed magician of Camelot and 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 and unusual gifts? Why was he so feared? How did he come by his occult powers? Why was the crystal cave so important to him?

Fifth century Britain is a country of chaos and 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 and 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 ... and the conception of Arthur -- king for once and always.
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