Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Picking up where The Merlin Effect left off, this patchy tale opens when young Merlin is summoned by the Great Council of Fincayra to heal their wounded land. The boy decides instead to follow his own wishes, with disastrous consequences: a deadly curse on his mother. In order to save her, he must learn the Seven Songs of Wizardry, and his desperate quest leads him and companion Rhia on a whirlwind tour of the magical isle. His pursuit of the Seven Songs leads to seven individual adventures with some interesting brushes with characters and objects from the Arthurian mythos (i.e., a sword that will be Excalibur and the temptress-to-be Nimue). However, each adventure boils down to a lesson and Merlin's recitation of such noble clichs as "The strongest bonds are of the heart," and "Everything is connected to everything else." Except for some unexpected developments and encounters with characters from the first book, this Round Table-inspired tale may not do enough to pique readers' interest, especially avid Arthurian legend fans. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Debra Briatico
The seven songs of Merlin, by T. A. Barron, is volume two of the "Lost Years of Merlin." Merlin, who now knows his name and who he is, must "bear the whole weight of the world for a time" as he fights to save the land of Fincayra. This volume may be a little difficult to read if you haven't read the first book. But it leaves the reader wanting to see the third volume. For ages 12 up, younger if the child has read some fantasy, and especially adults who love stories about Merlin.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9In this sequel to The Lost Years of Merlin (Philomel, 1996), 13-year-old Merlin faces down the powers of darkness on the island of Fincayra and masters the traditional Seven Songs of Wisdom. In one month's time, he must discover the soul of each song and journey to the Otherworld to obtain a magical elixir to save his mother's life. He is accompanied by Rhia, a girl who possesses a mystical relationship with nature; and Bumbelwy, an annoying and pessimistic court jester. Adventure follows adventure as Merlin seeks wisdom and learns that his pride is his worst enemy. The trio encounters giants, a huge spider with a voracious appetite, and a treacherous one-eyed monster. In the village of Slantos, Merlin finds the magical sword that will one day belong to King Arthur. This richly layered fantasy is filled with harrowing escapades and many surprises. While readers may never doubt the outcome, they will eagerly devour the chapters to arrive at the satisfying conclusion. Arthurian legend is used as the starting point for a delightfully original story of magic and myth that retains the spirit of the classic tales. Merlin is a flawed hero, yet he rises to each new challenge. While the title can stand alone, there are constant allusions to incidents and characters introduced in the first book. Readers will surely be waiting impatiently for the third part of this marvelous series.Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
This second installment of the sequence that began with The Lost Years of Merlin (1996) is as full of action and excitement as its predecessor, but is kinder and gentler in tone; while its origins are epic, it is foremost a tale of the heart.
Teenage Merlin remains on the enchanted isle of Fincayra, charged by its inhabitants to traverse the countryside, playing the flowering harp and thereby rejuvenating the land that was scarred in battle during the overthrow of Merlin's father, the evil King Stangmar. Although Merlin is proud to serve, his own desire to be reunited with his mother, Elen, so overwhelms him that he abandons his task and teleports her to his side. No sooner do the pair embrace, however, than Elen is poisoned by a deathshadow, meant for her son by evil Rhita Gawr: Merlin's mother can only be saved if he masters the seven wizard's songs within one lunar month. The quest on which Barron sends his amiable hero is delightfully accessible and appropriate for this audience: In essence, Merlin must rise above his own hubris, and use his heart and mind as an adult. Aiding Merlin in his tasks are the lovely and resourceful Rhia, and a new character, the dour would-be jester Bumbelwy. While plenty of characters from the previous novel appear, as do familiar landmarks, it is Merlin's inner journey that readers will cherish above all: His development is convincing and heartwarming. A rich and resonant read.
Read an Excerpt
Wearily, I lay my hand against the wooden wall. Suddenly I felt a brief spark of warmth from one of the runes. A strange tingling pulsed through my fingers. I caught a whiff of something, not quiet a deeling. Pushing my fingers to the wood, I concentrated harder. I thought of Elen, lying alone on a floor of woven boughs. Help her, please. She has given me so much. In a flash, I understood. The first rune spoke its meaning directly to my mind, in a deep, resonant voice that I had never heard, yet somehow always known. The Seven Songs of Wizardry, one melody and many, may guide ye to the Otherworld, though hope ye have not any... Excitedly, rune by rune, I read my way up each step of the stairwell. Often I paused, repeating the words to myself before proceeding. When at last I reached the top, the sun's first rays were filtering down the stirwell and trembling over the runes. During the night, the Seven Songs had been carved on the walls of my mind just as they had once been carved on the walls of Arbassa.