cover image The Other Merlin (Emry Merlin #1)

The Other Merlin (Emry Merlin #1)

Robyn Schneider. Viking, $18.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-593-35102-4

Schneider’s (You Don’t Live Here) first foray into fantasy, a clever trilogy starter based in the King Arthur mythos, changes most of the canonical facts but gets everything that matters right in this funny, sharp, romantic, magic-filled book. In this telling, Merlin is neither revered nor an old male wizard, but a bisexual 18-year-old girl, Emry. Though their famous, long-absent father gave more magic training to Emry’s twin brother, she’s the one with the magic chops. So when the king summons the next generation of the Merlin family, off she goes—disguised as her sibling. At court (a multiracial group, though Emry and the other protagonists are cued as white), she apprentices to the castle magician and befriends Arthur—the kind of prince who’s easily mistaken for a librarian—as well as his best friend Lancelot, depicted here as gay and unfairly demoted to castle guard. The bawdy jokes land, the magic flies, the court politics feel high-stakes, and Emry and Arthur’s characters, including their mutual attraction and growing ability to fulfill their destined roles, are believable and fully drawn. A highly satisfying, renegade reboot of an old story for fans of Once & Future and The Left-Handed Booksellers of London. Ages 14–up. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Literary. (Sept.)