In this coming-of-age fantasy, Barron (The Merlin Effect) investigates what he perceives as the mystery of the great enchanter's little-mentioned childhood and adolescence. Merlin himself narrates, at first in realistic mode as a child called Emrys in a grubby village in Wales, where he had washed ashore five years earlier; he is haunted by his inability to remember his earlier life. After some misadventures when his supernatural powers develop, he decides to set about ""finding my past, my identity."" Somehow he makes his way across the ocean to Fincayra, a strange place not quite of this world. There he gets drawn into a great conflict between good and evil, and the story mutates into a high fantasy quest populated by weird and mythic creatures. This part of the tale draws heavily on the Welsh Mabinogion; some of Merlin's adventures thus resemble Taran's in Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, which also uses that body of legend. Merlin learns of his Fincayran birthright, but in the clumsily handled conclusion he looks off into the future (and to the planned sequel), having decided that although he has found his past and his identity he has not found his ""true home."" Some readers--mostly teens or adults--will be looking eagerly with him. Others may find this attempt to create a biography for Merlin less of an organic novel than a showcase for the author's deft recycling of Welsh myth. Ages 8-up. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/09/1996 Release date: 09/01/1996 Genre: Children's
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.