The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

The Crystal Cave is the first book of Mary Stewart’s Arthurian Saga which includes the Merlin Trilogy (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills and The Last Enchantment) and The Wicked Day. I have always loved reading Mary Stewart. She seems to be able to write fantasy with just enough history mixed in to make it feel real.

Mary Stewart has written this book from the point of view of Merlin who is normally only a secondary character in stories about King Arthur. She has taken Merlin from the age of six through to young adulthood and made him very human (with just a few exceptions) rather than the crusty old all-powerful magician that we are used to seeing.

Ambrosius and his brother Uther have been living in exile in Brittany since their brother, the king of Great Britain was murdered. Ambrosius spends 20 years in Brittany planning to sieze back power in Great Britain through the overthrow of King Vertigern and the Saxons. During a secret scouting mission, Ambrosius meets Niniane – the daughter of a minor Welsh king and Merlin is conceived. Niniane refuses to name the father and Merlin becomes known as the devil’s child. That, combined with Merlin’s intellect and ‘the sight’ (ability to Prophesise) start to build Merlin’s reputation as an enchanter.

When Merlin’s grandfather dies and his mother enters the convent, Merlin escapes from Wales to avoid getting in the way of his uncle’s thirst for power. He travels to Brittany where he discovers his real father.

The story covers Merlin’s education:

  •   basic sorcery from and old hermit named Galapas,
  •   engineering from the lead engineers in Brittany,
  •   medicine from the lead doctors in Brittany,
  •   and, languages from a tutor

and continues through Ambrosius retaking Great Britain to the conception of Arthur by Uther and the Douchess of Cornwell, Ygraine.

I find Mary Stewart a delight to read and can’t wait to continue on to the next book!


Book Published 1970



See a full list of books by Mary Stewart

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