October 07, 2011
Merlin by Stephen Lawhead
We are shown Merlin as a young child, his teaching from the kindly druid Hafgan and the priest Dafyd, then to his capture by a small tribe and his years in imprisonment, to his adult life. His adult life is where most of the actions take place and because he is long lived, he experiences the life of many men. He is a King at a point, a husband, a hermit, and then we see him in his most well known role, adviser to the High King's of Britain and his plotting that puts them on the throne. While not much is yet said of Arthur, he is born in this book. But there is more than that, this book explores Merlin as a man and his feelings and emotions. Instead of being a wise implacable sage, there is much more to him in this book.
Most of the characters were well done in this book. While some only had minor roles, they were pertinent to the story and really added to Merlin's life. Merlin himself expressed a wide range of emotions and was made to feel more human than he is in other Arthurian novels. My only complaint as far as characterization goes was that for the majority, Christians equaled good and wholesome while everyone else was described as evil or ignorant. It was a bit offensive.
Lawhead is a very descriptive writer and it shows in this series. He brings Merlin to life in a semi-realistic way (there is still some magic although he doesn't call it that due to his Christian flavor of the book). He tells a compelling story and doesn't shrink on any of the details. That being said, this book does get slow in some parts as he tells the story in one pace regardless if that scene is interesting or not. Also, the book tends to get preachy in parts with him waxing eloquently on the pleasures of Christianity. I'm fine with an author inserting his religion in a book, but they should still follow the rule "show, don't tell."
A major flaw with the book that I personally thought was strange was his use of magic despite making his characters entirely Christian. It seemed odd to me that they were doing things, that in that time, should have gotten them burned at the stake for being a witch instead of being lauded as most holy. It just didn't seem logical to me. He also has the Fair Folk (Merlin's family) living a lot longer than everybody else and while I know the bible has this happen to, it seems strange that this wouldn't have made the normal people angry and fearful of the Fair Folk instead of liking them.
I'll probably continue with the series and hope that they be less preachy. There are some great points in the novel and overall it is an interesting story. Plus, I hate starting something I can't finish and there are a few more books to go.