The Last Enchantment

The Last Enchantment is described on the cover as 'the third in the magical Merlin Trilogy,' but in fact there is a fourth volume dealing with the final days of Camelot called The Wicked Day. I'm in two minds about whether to read that one, because to my mind, The Last Enchantment rounds out Merlin's story perfectly, and I'm not sure if I want to plunge into the tragedy of Camelot's end.

Through these three books, I have loved the way that Mary Stewart has reinterpreted parts of Merlin and Arthur's legends  in a more realistic way, while not discounting completely the role of magic or supernatural powers -- for example, Merlin's bout of madness is caused by poison, and his 'magical' raising of Stonehenge is actually due to his skills as an engineer. The Last Enchantment starts rather slowly, and there is a lot of travelling -- I could have done with more magic and fewer road trips! But once Merlin settles down near Camelot, oddly, that is where the story truly came to life, with his late-life falling in love and his accidental walling-up in his own tomb while still alive. This part of the book was especially vivid and harrowing.

I have very enjoyed discovering Mary Stewart's classic version of Merlin's life, and I'm hunting down other twists on the legends of Camelot. The problem might be that there are just too many of them! I'm already revisiting Kevin Crossley-Holland's rich and poetic trilogy, and I have a YA version waiting, with a long list of others to follow. So perhaps if King Arthur is not your cup of tea, you might want to skip my blog this year!

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