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The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart
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The Last Enchantment (1979)

by Mary Stewart

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English (21)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (23)
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The Last Enchantment is Mary Stewart’s third installment in her Arthurian novels, and the last of the trilogy that centers around the character of Merlin. In her inimitable way, Stewart gives us the final days of Merlin and brings us full circle to the beginning of The Crystal Cave, in which we are introduced to an old man setting out to tell his tale of wonder in service to his god.

Arthur, now King of all Britain, must deal with all the obstacles to his reign that have become so much a part of the legend of his life. Evil, in the person of Morgause, his sister and the mother of his only child, rears its head and bites into the fabric of his glory, and Merlin must help him to steer a course through the dangers she presents. Guinevere comes into his life and with her the seeds of a love for his best friend that is forbidden but impossible to ignore. Merlin experiences love and possible betrayal, and the hardest of all things, the waning of his power.

The strength of this series for me has always been the perception of Merlin as a man and not a wizard, a tool of the gods but never a god himself. Stewart carries that theme right to the end in a way that makes you ache for Merlin and share his accomplishments and sorrows in a way that would be impossible if he were all-knowing or in control. The love he inspires in and feels for Arthur is palpable and his failure to understand women and their needs is evident as he deals with the female characters who become so important in his final days.

“I said to the ghosts, to the voices, to the empty moonlight: ‘It was time. Let me go in peace.’ Then, commending myself and my spirit to God who all these years had held me in his hand, I composed myself for sleep. This was the last thing that I know to be truth, and not a dream in darkness.” This is not the end of Merlin’s tale, but which of us would not be satisfied to be able to lay our lives down with so little fear and such faith?

I love this series so much and feel so much still when reading them, that I always feel the desire to be able to convey that feeling in some way and inspire others to pick them up and read. There is much of fantasy, history, and legend here, but there is more. There is love, betrayal, purpose, faith and the idea that a life that is lived for something other than self-service is a life worth living and full of reward. There is a sense that if you set yourself in the path of the gods they will guide you toward your true destiny, but that no man can ever go there by himself and without their help. There is the assurance that the encounters we have in life are worth having, even if in the end we must kiss them and let them go. And, perhaps that even in the lives that are touched with great doings and important events, it is the simple things, like the love of a man for his son, that are truly important.

“I lifted my head, remembering, once more, the child who had listened nightly for the music of the spheres, but had never heard it. Now here it was, all around me, a sweet, disembodied music, as if the hill itself was a harp to the high air.” The music is there, all around us, and if we listen long enough we will hear it and it will be enough to satisfy us at last.

( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
Excellent third book to this trilogy. Mary Stewart hits on all cylinders as she describes the apex of Arthurian legend and Merlin's role and the ominous prediction of Arthur's demise. ( )
  bhuesers | Mar 29, 2017 |
The last installment in Stewart’s Arthurian trilogy was a bit too prosaic for my taste. While some of her interpretations of the legend were very interesting, such as there being two wives named Guinevere… Dare I say it? I found the whole thing downright boring and had to force myself to finish. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “The Mists of Avalon” is still my favorite version of the legend. ( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
While this isn't the last of the Arthurian series, it is the end of the Merlin trilogy. This book picks up where The Hollow Hills ends.

I liked the more human Arthur (as opposed to the shining king of legend). I also like how he matures and grows into the king Merlin believed he could be. It was nice to see that he has his own wisdom and insights.

Ah, but Merlin. When I was younger, I pitied the older Merlin. Now, I see him looking back over his life and he lived it fully. There are tears, but there is also joy.

This look at the Arthurian mythos was unique in its time. I believe it has aged well and have enjoyed re-reading it decades after I last did.

Just go ahead and get the books! ( )
2 vote Jean_Sexton | Apr 11, 2016 |
This novel covers the time from when Arthur Pendragon first becomes king to the time Merlin, now getting on in years, begins to lose his powers and becomes a sort of master spy to assist King Arthur as he begins the task of uniting all of Britain.

Arthur is now King and hard at work establishing Camelot as the center of government and authority. A few ambitious lords from other parts of Britain have designs on Arthur's throne, and Merlin is kept busy preventing them from doing so. Having unwisely taken Morgause(his half-sister) to his bed as a very young man after his first battle and victory, Arthur is now the father of Mordred. Merlin foresees that Mordred will be the cause of Arthur's death, but doesn't understand how it will happen. He spends a great deal of time traveling in disguise and observing Morgause's scheming and intrigue.

Somewhere along the line, Merlin takes on a female apprentice, Niniane. When she first appears she is disguised as a boy, and Merlin initially takes her for the reincarnation of a child he had seen some years before whom he would have chosen as apprentice, but who died unexpectedly. Niniane is not quite as gifted as Merlin himself, but he teaches her everything he knows, and they fall in love despite their age difference. As he gives her the secrets of his psychic abilities and how to control them, he seems to lose them himself. In a depleted, weakened condition, he takes ill and falls into a coma, and is believed to be dead. Niniane has him buried within the crystal cave, where he awakes some time later. He escapes after a few weeks, through a combination of chance luck and ingenious planning, and travels incognito to let Arthur know he is still around. Niniane takes Merlin's place as the court wizard-seer, while Merlin retires to the crystal cave and lives a quiet and happy life as a hermit, much like his old master in the first volume of the series.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
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Mary Stewartprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bennett, HarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To one who was dead and is alive again, who was lost and is found.
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Not every king would care to start his reign with the wholesale massacre of children.
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Book description
Arthur is King! But while he is unchallenged on the battlfield, sinister powers plot to destroy him in his own Camelot. When the rose-gold witch Morgause, Arthur's half-sister, ensnares him into an incestuous liaison -- and bears his son, Mordred, to use to her own evil ends -- a fatal web of love, betrayal and vengeance begins....

Seen through the eyes of Arthur's prophetic protector, Merlin -- whose own mysterious powers are in dire danger -- here is a tale rich with the majesty and turbulence of the magnificent legend it tells....resplendent with Mary Stewart's own special magic.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060548274, Paperback)

Arthur Pendragon is King! Unchallenged on the battlefield, he melds the country together in a time of promise. But sinister powers plot to destroy Camelot, and when the witch-queen Morgause -- Arthur's own half sister -- ensnares him in an incestuous liaison, a fatal web of love, betrayal, and bloody vengeance is woven.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:14 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Arthur Pendragon is King! Unchallenged on the battlefield, he melds the country together in a time of promise. But sinister powers plot to destroy Camelot, and when the witch-queen Morgause -- Arthur's own half sister -- ensnares him in an incestuous liaison, a fatal web of love, betrayal, and bloody vengeance is woven.… (more)

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