cover image Merlin's Bones

Merlin's Bones

Fred Saberhagen. Tor Books, $22.95 (350pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85563-5

Proving that there's still abundant life in the oft-told Arthurian legends, Saberhagen's (The Book of Swords) reworking weaves together distant past, near future and fairy realm into a compelling and intriguing whole. In the past, a troupe of travelling players is being pursued by a rampaging conqueror. Amby, the youngest of the novel's several narrators, uses his powers of second sight to his advantage as he and his fellow travelers enter the fortress protecting the bones of the recently deceased sorcerer, Merlin. In the near future, Dr. Elaine Brusen is confronted with the Fisher King, Morgan Le Fay and Mordred, all of whom want control of her hypostator machine, a device capable of altering fundamental reality. Elaine must follow her own twisting road, through the realm of fairy and beyond, if she is to remain safe and find true love. The ensuing battles for Arthur's survival, Merlin's bones, the succession of New Camelot and Elaine's heart prove both suspenseful and delightful. Saberhagen's narrative juggling is dazzling and imbues the novel's many paradoxes with an elusive grace. (The Tennyson lines on Elaine's computer terminal add a particularly lyrical touch.) (Apr.)