I must confess; when it comes to various takes on the Arthur legend, I’m a bit of a non-traditionalist. I prefer the likes of Monty Python & the Holy Grail and Disney’s The Sword in the Stone to more traditional retellings.
I admit, I was slow to warm up to the book. I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be reading it to begin with — but I’d committed to writing a review of it for Portland Books Examiner as part of a blog tour, and the publishers had sent me an advance copy for free. And I don’t really turn down free books. (Can you blame me?) Of course, I wondered if this had been a mistake when I first began reading Merlin’s Harp. The flowery language, all this talk of “the Goddess,” and the general fantastical-ness of the entire setting threw me off — at first.
Sure, I like books with a supernatural twist — but the books I like are generally based in the real world, with a supernatural element thrown in. (High school meets vampires; Southern gothic meets witchy goodness; teenage angst meets fallen angels). Not so much with Merlin’s Harp. This was a case of full-immersion fantasy.
Except as I read, I found that this was a good thing. Crompton sucks you into her fantasy realm, enveloping you in the mannerisms, culture, history and fantasy of Avalon and King Arthur’s court.
The book further sucked me in as familiar characters came into play, and Crompton wove in delightful plot twists involving the likes of Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot and Gwenevere. (Okay, and I confess a certain fondness for Mordred — sure, he’s the villain in this tale — but my brother played him in his high school production of “Camelot” and he was so good, he became the sort of villain you wanted to root for. That’s just stuck with me over the years.)
… In fact, my biggest complaint about the book isn’t the book itself. It’s the fact that I’ve had somes from the Lerner & Loew musical “Camelot” stuck in my head ever since finishing it! (Please note: I am NOT a fan of this musical.)
Here’s some of what I said in my “formal” review on Examiner:
The book is a new, feminine twist on the Arthur Legend, much in the vein of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon. Crompton has woven a complex and vivid world of magic and fantasy. The reader is thrust into this world on the first page — and though the full, immediate immersion can be jarring for reality-based readers, Crompton’s prose soon pulls you in.
And here is the official synposis:
Among the towering trees of magical Avalon, where humans dare not tread, lives Niviene, daughter of the Lady of the Lake. Her people, the Fey, are folk of the wood and avoid the violence and greed of man. But the strife of King Arthur’s realm threatens even the peace of Avalon. And while Merlin the mage has been training Niviene as his apprentice, he now needs her help to thwart the chaos devouring Camelot. Niviene’s special talents must help save a kingdom and discover the treachery of men and the beauty of love…
Plus, stay tuned to see how you could win a free copy of Merlin’s Harp courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire!
For the comments: Are you a fan of the Arthurian legend? Have you read Merlin’s Harp, or do you think you might check it out?