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The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

The Crystal Cave (1970)

by Mary Stewart

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,601811,485 (4.08)2 / 298
  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
    Twilight of Avalon: A Novel of Trystan & Isolde (Twilight of Avalon Trilogy) by Anna Elliott (Kasthu)
  3. 30
    Idylls of the King by Alfred Tennyson (myshelves)
    myshelves: Tennyson's classic rendering of the Arthurian legends in verse.
  4. 64
    The Once and Future King by T. H. White (myshelves)
    myshelves: Basis for the play/movie Camelot.
  5. 10
    Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff (Anonymous user)
  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 (79)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (81)
Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
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 know more than 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 the more minor 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 die.”

I 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 lot more praise 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.

( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
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 |
This was a re-read of Mary Stewart’s 1970 rendering of the legend surrounding Arthur's "begetting" and rise to power as told in retrospect by a young Merlin, who although blessed with "the sight" is merely a well educated, mortal man. No cup-twirling, talking-teapot Merlin is he. Nor is he the alleged “Prince of Darkness but rather a skilled physician and engineer. Born a bastard son into the royal family, Merlin learns to survive in a family that, save his mother, wants him dead. His medical and engineering prowess sow the seeds of legend through the countryside as he travels about, healing when he can, and constantly gathering knowledge and skills. His talents and sight eventually arrange Arthur’s birth and rise to power. Rejecting the life of a prince, Merlin prefers the solitude and peace of his Crystal Cave on Bryn Myrddin (Merlin’s Mountain) where staring into the glowing embers of his hearth he conjures visions of things to come.
Mary Stewart, God rest her soul (9/17/1916 – 5/9/2014), immerses us in fifth-century power struggles and mysticism swirling in medieval England. A wonderful, classically literary read. Four and a half stars . ( )
  Renzomalo | Sep 2, 2017 |
Mary Stewart's first book in her Arthurian Saga deals entirely with Merlin, his upbringing, his unique gifts and the mystery of his "magic".

It truly is well written - sparse, concise and yet with beautiful descriptive passages that give a glimpse into what the characters were seeing. And the best part of this book? How the author handled the magic, at once beautiful and explainable, but mysterious and uncontrollable.

I can't wait to read the next one. ( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
I read this many moons ago and enjoyed it then. Finally, I'm getting back to it again after some serious fantasy reading and finding it just as enjoyable now.

Merlin tells the story of his youth. He grew up with his mother, the daughter of the king of England. He meets an old druid living in a cave and starts to learn about his abilities. When the king is killed and is taken over by his brother, Merlin leaves and sails across the Narrow Sea to Breton. He offers his services to Ambrosius who he recognizes as his father. Eventually he returns to England and is called to assist Uther for the well known tryst with Ygraine.

Though the story of Merlin and Arthur's birth is so well known, Stewart gave us a version through Merlin's eyes that give us a thorough picture of the intrigue and history of the period. I would not hesitate to label this trilogy a classic. ( )
  mamzel | Dec 11, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 79 (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)

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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Book description

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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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060548258, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:38 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

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)

» see all 9 descriptions

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