Coming of the King

Nikolai Tolstoy, Author Spectra Books $18.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-553-05269-5
Tolstoy (a British descendant of the famous writer) has named his volume aptly: this first book of a trilogy is also the first to draw the complex, mysterious Merlin from the mists of Britain's Celtic past in terms poetic, fantastic and true. This is no garishly covered blockbuster to be quickly read and lugged around in commuter handbags: instead, it should be kept for reading alone--and telling aloud, as the Iliad , Beowulf and the Mabinogion were told. In a brief prologue, a king rides out with his warband and sees a vision of a man rising from a great mound to address him: ``You awaken me, that am departed from the world of men.'' And Merlin mab Morfryn proceeds to tell how, in fulfillment of legend and prophecy, he was born in a castle and consigned as a baby to the depth of the sea for 40 years. Once again on dry land, there were battles, duels with the supernatural, visions of past and future and wonderful riddles: ``What is swifter than the wind?--Thought.'' ``What is sharper than the sword?--Truth.'' In classic, heroic style, and with wit, tragic sensibility and poetry in the bardic tradition, Merlin's story--which includes Arthur's and tells of the coming of the priests of Iesu Crist to save the soul of Britain in the Dark Ages--is gathered up in masterly fashion from scattered references in chronicle, fable, myth and poem into an epic with the complex quality of nectar: not easily described, nor for every taste, but once tasted, never forgotten. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/27/1989
Release date: 03/01/1989
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-553-28395-2
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