When I first heard about Merlin's Blade, the cover caught my eye. I started seeing it pop up all over cyberspace, and friends were raving about it. I added it to my to-read list. When the author offered a handful of copies for a read and share contest, I jumped at the chance.
Merlin. Just the name conjures up quite a lot of images. For me, he has been mostly connected to King Arthur. A second hand man, a supporting character. But not in this book. Most of us have some familiarity with the Arthurian legends, stories, movies, so going into a book like this, I'm looking for that connection of familiarity. And this is the first time I've read about the young Merlin, before Arthur was King, before he was even old enough to crawl.
Merlin is a shy, half-blind boy of a swordsmith. He seems like a normal boy with a crush on a girl, trying to do what's right, and helping out the abbey and its priests. But he isn't, and we are left wondering the mystery surrounding him. Why him? Why did the wolves hunt him? Why did he receive the visions? Why was he given the special torc? But his integrity and personality drew me to him. True chivalry. He remained steadfast, despite his weaknesses, his blindness, and all the circumstances, obstacles that stood against him. I love stories that strengthen my resolve to be a better person.
The story, the setting, just came to life. I felt like I stepped back in time to fifth century Britain. It is a time of political upheaval and religious clashes between Christians and the druids. Even with the grounded, historical feel, there's just enough of the fantastical to whet the appetite of fantasy lovers. The power of the stone, the visions Merlin has, the druids' magic, the miracles of God. Everything is shrouded in mystery, and as Merlin learns, we learn. I look to the subsequent novels to reveal it and answer the questions remaining at the end of this book, especially the ones surrounding Merlin.
With a big cast, I sometimes had a hard time remembering who was who at the beginning, but it didn't' hinder my enjoyment. There were several different point of views, and as the action picked up, we switched between them quicker, building the tension. As a reader, I could see what the characters could not, and I could only watch helplessly as the characters made choices and marched off in a direction we know will end badly.
This book has the makings of epic. The layers, subplots, a grand cast of characters, and a map. Politics, religion, kings, bards, and peasants. The poetry, songs, history, visions, and prophecies. It's all there. Oh, and did I mention the secret code??? Awesome!
I'm having a hard time describing how much I liked this book without giving away too much information. It is a story to make you think "What if?" A re-envisioning of Merlin and what that might mean for the future King Arthur, and what these stories will bring to the Arthurian legends.
I'm ready to dive into book two! Highly recommended!
It is very difficult to write a book centered in the world of Arthurian Legends and characters, without making it seem like something we've read before. In Merlin's Blade, the author was able to present a wildly popular tale without seeming to ride on the backs of those who have gone before him. The story was unique, implemented the THIRST method very well (as it should, since the author created the writing method), and engaged the audience by giving just enough of the ancient lore to make Arthurian fans happy.
Merlin is a very likeable character. He seems very human due to his handicap, but also has a hero's heart which makes him endearing. He risks his life to save others, is very loyal, stands in the face of physical and verbal adversity, and refuses to back down, no matter what comes his way. The reimagining of this iconic character from skilled wizard to sword smith's son was a bold move, I think, but one that paid off. People like characters that aren't perfect, thus lending Merlin well to likability.
The book carries a serious tone throughout its pages, making it more action and lore as opposed to suspense and humor, which perhaps lends itself better to the market it is trying to reach. What the book does add to the Arthurian market, however, are strong moral principles which speak well to our current culture that is sadly lacking in this department.
As this book includes several Christian themes and elements to it, there will be some readers who are divided over the magical properties of the stone and it's somewhat demonic nature. However, for avid Christian Fantasy reader, these themes will not be a concern, as good standing against evil is an overarching theme. If you are a fan of other Arthur/Merlin books, then the magic content will not be an issue.
There were a couple scenes that slipped into OTN dialogue; I'm sure due to the difficulty of having an MC that was predominantly blind. It wasn't too heavy, though, and the book is a clean read involving little gore (not little action) that is not graphically described.
All in all an enjoyable read with sound character development, plot, and well placed lore.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Robert Treskillard, in Merlin's Blade, presents engaging writing and a relatable protagonist. Merlin's relatability springs from his daily struggle regarding his abilities and limitations. We all regularly contend with various infirmities be it mental, physical, or emotional. I enjoyed Merlin's strength even in his uncertainty. Despite doubting his physical prowess, Merlin continued to fight and never gave up. Notwithstanding the obstacles, Merlin stood steadfast in his belief.
Holding family and friendship in high esteem, Merlin demonstrates loyalty to both through his interactions with Owain, Garth, and Natalenya. Although Garth's motives prove damaging to he and Merlin, he later redeems himself. His selfless act to save Arthur, resolve to help fight the Druidow, concern of others, and denial of food, despite his never ending hunger, allows him to right his wrongs. A most refreshing aspect, Merlin's Blade contains no love triangles. Yes, score! I found Natalenya to be a likable love interest. During their walk to the smithy, I couldn't help but smile and root for them as Natalenya hints at marriage. Some of the names, objects, and customs were new to me, I appreciated the glossary and pronunciation key in the back of the book. My favorite quote alludes to the Book of Ruth, "But though I don't know where I'm going, I can provide for you. Will you come?" She took his hand. "Where you go, I will go, and your people will be my people" (405).
Now, I await the next installment to find out what's in store for Merlin and his band of followers.
This is a great debut novel, one that I highly recommend for fans of Merlin and
King Arther. At first, because of its age group, I feared that Treskillard might have cheeped on the research and detail but that is not the case. He made Britain come alive with characters, both new and known, amazingly described scenes.
My only complaint is that the end seemed to drag out. I would have liked for it to have sped up just slightly.
I am 12 years old and love fantasy novels. I would highly recommend this book, although some concepts may be hard for younger kids to grasp. Robert does a great job on squeezing in history and geography into this already action-packed novel.