Merlin’s Blade


A few months ago, Zondervan Publishing contacted me to read and review some YA books for them.  One of those books was Merlin’s Blade by Robert Treskillard.  I was really excited about reading this book because…well, it’s Merlin and King Arthur and Excaliber and all that great Arthurian legend stuff.  It was the first book of six I picked up to read.

I have mixed emotions about this book.  First, let me say I thought it was very well written, especially for a first-time author.  Treskillard knows how to weave a tale and there was a great deal of research and old stories that went into the telling of this one.  Merlin, Merlin’s father, King Uther and all the other players in this book were well crafted.  They were ‘real’ people, people we can relate to.  People we want to see triumph and others we want to see vanquished.  There are all the elements of an epic fantasy tale created in the true Arthurian fashion.  What threw me in this novel, however, was how Merlin was so different from the other tales I’ve read, especially how the sword in the stone ended up in the stone.

This book is told for the most part from Merlin’s perspective.  Arthur is still a baby when Merlin pledges his allegiance to the once and future king.  What I found difficult to grasp was that Merlin is mostly blind in this story, a wound left over from being attacked by wolves at a young age.  I soon found, though, that the story took on dimension.  I ended up like Merlin, experiencing his world through my other senses of touch, smell, and hearing.  I think this gave me a better grasp on the settings as the trees and the towns took on new, vivid  appearances usually left unseen when we rely primarily on our sight.

There were multiple viewpoints in this story but they were well done and engaging, each person’s perspective adding to the one before.  Each one equally important.  So many authors shy away from writing in multiple perspectives but this book is a great testament to how it can be done successfully.

The world-building is very well done.  Unlike many fantasy stories, this one takes place in one town, the one Merlin grew up in.  Instead of Merlin going on an adventure, the adventure comes to him, including Uther and Arthur.  I thought this was a unique way to write this story and the ending is filled with the promise of greater adventures to come.

While this story of Merlin broke the mold of a young Merlin I’d read about before, this Merlin is courageous, likable,  kind and noble.  I also loved how he clung to his faith even in the darkest of moments when he could have so easily turned on so many occasions.

Zondervan is a Christian publisher so it is no wonder that religion plays a big role in Merlin’s Blade.  I would like to say, however, that religion played a big role in Merlin’s and King Arthur’s time, so if the story is to be told in its truest form, there has to be a religious element. This was not overdone for those who may stray from ‘religious’ books.  It doesn’t preach; it simply tells a wonderful story of a one of fantasy’s most beloved characters.

One of my only complaints is that the story starts off rather slow.  It takes some time to get into it, but hey, it’s fantasy.  The reader needs the time to know the characters and fall in love with them as their stories unfold.  There were some scenes where the pace kicked up, and I have to say, I wish more of the book moved a bit faster than it did.  That’s why I’m giving this book 4 stars and not 5.

If you’re looking for a great Merlin story for you or a young adult, I highly recommend this story.  I can’t wait to see where Treskillard takes this story next.  I know I’ll be right there, waiting to read the next installment in this Merlin series.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

***

From the cover:

A strange meteorite.
A deadly enchantment.
And only Merlin can destroy it.

A meteorite brings a mysterious black stone whose sinister power ensnares everyone except Merlin, the blind son of a swordsmith. Soon, all of Britain will be under its power, and he must destroy the stone—or die trying.

***

Where to find Robert Treskillard:

Twitter

Facebook

Blog

Review of Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey


Dragonswood

Synopsis – From Goodreads:

Wilde Island is not at peace. The kingdom mourns the dead Pendragon king and awaits the return of his heir; the uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans is strained; and the regent is funding a bloodthirsty witch hunt, hoping to rid the island of half-fey maidens.

Tess, daughter of a blacksmith, has visions of the future, but she still doesn’t expect to be accused of witchcraft, forced to flee with her two best friends, or offered shelter by the handsome and enigmatic Garth Huntsman, a warden for Dragonswood. But Garth is the younger prince in disguise and Tess soon learns that her true father was fey, making them the center of an exciting, romantic adventure, and an ancient prophecy that will bring about peace between all three races – dragon, human, and fairy.

***

I recently finished the novel Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey and I have to say I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I picked it up several times at the library, debating if I should check it out or not. I’m glad I did.

The story opens with the main character, Tess, witnessing a heartbreaking scene as a child. It quickly leaps forward to Tess at seventeen attending the funeral of her infant brother. All of her siblings have perished, leaving her the only living child in the family. She leads a very harsh and abusive life and frequently escapes to the forbidden Dragonswood to think, daydream and draw. At the age of seventeen, Tess is accused of being a witch and is thrown into a lake by the witch hunter, Lady Adela, to drown. If you want to find out what happens from there, I’m afraid you’re going to have to read the book. Sorry. I don’t do spoilers. 🙂

The story moves along at the perfect pace. There is an old-fashion feel to the narrative, the kind that makes you want to curl up with a blanket in front of a fire and read for hours until its end. The majority of the characters are introduced within the first 50 pages and the plot line is beautifully woven. The author is very descriptive in her imagery but not overly so. There are, as the back cover says, fearsome dragons, a fairy palace, a lost prince and an epic romance. There is a magical feel to the book, especially the second half when Tess discovers secrets about herself, her friends, Garth Huntsman and Dragonswood. I was invested in Tess’ and Garth’s characters from the moment of their introduction. There are two friends who remain at Tess’ side – Meg and Poppy – but they play minor roles, mainly to add secondary plot tensions.

If I had to mark the novel down for anything, I would have to say I felt some of the scenes unfolded too ‘conveniently’ for the characters. I do understand that editing probably had a lot to do with it, but there were two times I felt slightly ‘cheated’ because the scenes and subplots seemed to work out too easily.

The settings are beautifully written and I could see each one of them quite vividly. I was very impressed with the imagery and the way the author inter-wove her story with those of King Arthur and Merlin. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking for a relaxed, engaging young adult fantasy tale with just the right amount of magic and romance. I will certainly keep my eye out for more novels by this author.

I give this novel a firm 4 stars.

***