cover image The Merlin Effect

The Merlin Effect

T. A. Barron. Philomel Books, $19.99 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22689-2

Blending Arthurian legend and modern oceanography, Barron's (Heartlight; The Ancient One) lively tale boasts finely developed characters as well as fast-moving adventure. Thirteen-year-old Kate Gordon is assisting her father, an English-history professor, in his search for a sunken Spanish galleon off the Baja peninsula, when she rescues a whale that has gotten tangled in the expedition's equipment. That event propels the group into a quest for Merlin's legendary horn of power, hidden in the galleon, which in turn is surrounded by a huge whirlpool. After plunging into the whirlpool, Kate and her companions engage in an epic battle with Merlin's mortal enemy Nimue and her cadre of sea demons, who want to use the horn to extend their evil domain. Barron achieves a solid balance of mythology, environmental issues and scientific research procedures. The monsters are appropriately scary and malevolent, while the relationships among Kate, her father and the other members of the expedition are well drawn and touching. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)