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The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart
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The Hollow Hills (1973)

by Mary Stewart

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English (35)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (37)
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After the thrills of The Crystal Cave, we pick Merlin up, bleeding on the side of the road out of Tintagel, and watch as he begins his journey into the life of the boy who will be King Arthur. One of literature’s great characters, Merlin is the bridge between Ambrosius and Arthur--the once and future kings, and for my money he embodies all that is fine about both of them.

Mary Stewart's Merlin appeals to me mostly because of his humanity. He pays a high price for his powers, and they are granted to him only at the whim and determination of his god. Thus, it is not Merlin who controls events or chooses history, but Merlin who works on earth to bring about a plan clearly forged in heaven. By that same token, he cannot always prevent tragedy, and he must bear, as all men do, his share of regret and disappointment. He states, “I was the god’s instrument, but I was not the god’s hand.” He knows his role and it prevents his being arrogant or self-important and makes him lovable and real. We are able to see him as a man who is given the difficult role of shaping the right future for a nation by trusting that God is behind him in whatever he must do. A pretty heavy burden.

In The Crystal Cave, we see Merlin as a boy and a youth, learning about his god and how to wield his powers. In The Hollow Hills, we see Merlin the man, who understands and has confidence in himself and what he can and should accomplish for his god. And, we see Merlin as a father-figure, with Arthur as his child, his progeny, his legacy.

Even the legend of Arthur is enhanced by Stewart’s presentation of Arthur as a boy rather than as we usually see him, a full-grown King. He is shaped by his foster family into a person of values and we see how he comes to rely on Merlin for both love and guidance. For anyone who has only the image of Merlin as a wizard in flowing robes, self-assured and able to command the thunder when he desires, I submit that this image is an empty jug compared to this Merlin of flesh and blood who must think and feel his way toward the purpose that lies in front of him, a purpose that is passed to him as a sacred duty by his own father.

There are moments of descriptive beauty that are awe-inspiring. There are moments of sentiment that bring tears to my eyes (even after multiple readings). There are moments of intelligent humor that make me smile and which give the characters who speak the lines depth and tangibility. Stewart is a masterful storyteller, with the wisdom and skills of Homer. She transports us. The only thing that makes coming to the end of this book tolerable is knowing that The Last Enchantment lies ahead!
( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
This is the second of Stewart's Merlin series, retelling the Arthur legends from the first-person viewpoint of Merlin. It makes some effort towards a realistic late Romano-British setting, though Merlin also has "the Sight" and sometimes believes himself to be acting on behalf of the gods, notably when he brings Uther to Igraine to beget Arthur, an event which has just happened the night before the beginning of this volume. It covers Merlin's involvement in Arthurs' upbringing, ending with Arthur's taking the throne. Since the book runs almost 500 pages, this means the action is rather slow-motion, though Stewart is a competent writer with much previous experience of writing modern adventure novels. . ( )
  antiquary | May 5, 2017 |
Book 2 of Mary Stewart's fabulous series of books regarding the Arthurian legend chronicles the birth and youth of Arthur to his commencement as King from Merlin's viewpoint.

While not quite as intriguing as the first book, this remains a terrific story and the last 40 pages which tells about Arthur's rise to the crown is as gripping fiction as I've ever read. ( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
The second book in a series dealing with Merlin and Arthur, this one is solid and entertaining enough. I do love Stewart's Merlin, but the story did drag in parts. Definitely enjoyable, but not as magical as reading Malory or The Mabinogion, I think. ( )
  electrascaife | Feb 13, 2017 |
01/1980 ( )
  Kaethe | Oct 16, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Stewartprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bennett, HarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the memory of my father
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There was a lark singing somewhere high above.
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To remember love after long sleep; to turn again to poetry after a year in the market place, or to youth after resignation to drowsy and stiffening age; to remember what once you though life could hold, after telling over with muddied and calculating fingers what it has offered; this is music, made after long silence.
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Book description
The Hollow Hills takes place in a fifth-century Britain fraught with superstition and fear, where no life is safe, no law is stable, and where a king risks accusations of murder and adultery to get himself an heir. For his own safety, the boy Arthur, rejected as a bastard by his father, is long kept ignorant of his parentage.
Dangerous rides through the deep forests of england and Wales, sudden battles amidst brooding mountains, and retreats into secret hollows in the hills provide the background for this tale of Arthur's growth in to manhood and his discovery of the strange sword that was to test his claim to power.
Behind and around Arthur always is the mysterious, strong, yet vulnerable figure of Merlin, who sees and knows so much but who, like Arthur, must also suffer for the sake of a nation being born. IN this world of embattled kings and courtiers, hurried journeys, whispered anxieties, and sudden death, we watch Merlin and Arthur follow their common destiny.

Merlin is the narrator, and his prophetic voice communicates not only the bristling atmosphere of the ancient setting but also the profound relevance of this age-old tale to our own time.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060548266, Paperback)

Keeping watch over the young Arthur Pendragon, the prince and prophet Merlin Ambrosius is haunted by dreams of the magical sword Caliburn, which has been hidden for centuries. When Uther Pendragon is killed in battle, the time of destiny is at hand, and Arthur must claim the fabled sword to become the true High King of Britain.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:32 -0400)

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"Keeping watch over the young Arthur Pendragon, the prince and prophet Merlin Ambrosius is haunted by dreams of the magical sword Caliburn, which has been hidden for centuries. When Uther Pendragon is killed in battle, the time of destiny is at hand, and Arthur must claim the fabled sword to become the true High King of Britain."--Back cover.… (more)

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