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The Coming of the King

The Coming of the King

by Nikolai Tolstoy

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Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Tolstoy (a British descendant of the famous writer) has named his volume aptly: this first book of a trilogy is also the first to draw the complex, mysterious Merlin from the mists of Britain's Celtic past in terms poetic, fantastic and true. This is no garishly covered blockbuster to be quickly read and lugged around in commuter handbags: instead, it should be kept for reading alone--and telling aloud, as the Iliad , Beowulf and the Mabinogion were told. In a brief prologue, a king rides out with his warband and sees a vision of a man rising from a great mound to address him: ``You awaken me, that am departed from the world of men.'' And Merlin mab Morfryn proceeds to tell how, in fulfillment of legend and prophecy, he was born in a castle and consigned as a baby to the depth of the sea for 40 years. Once again on dry land, there were battles, duels with the supernatural, visions of past and future and wonderful riddles: ``What is swifter than the wind?--Thought.'' ``What is sharper than the sword?--Truth.'' In classic, heroic style, and with wit, tragic sensibility and poetry in the bardic tradition, Merlin's story--which includes Arthur's and tells of the coming of the priests of Iesu Crist to save the soul of Britain in the Dark Ages--is gathered up in masterly fashion from scattered references in chronicle, fable, myth and poem into an epic with the complex quality of nectar: not easily described, nor for every taste, but once tasted, never forgotten. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Merlin's world in all its complexities is memorably depicted in this first of three fictional studies by the author of the nonfiction The Quest for Merlin . The legendary figure tells his own story from his birth, including some mystical episodes. This book culminates in the battle of Dineirth, where Merlin has accompanied King Maelgun the Tall. Although there are references to Arthur, that story is not told here. A generation later, the northern and western British lords with their medley of Christian and pagan practices are uniting to drive out the heathen Saxons. Names, terms, and places are generally in old Celtic. A list of characters and places assists; a map would have been helpful. Those well versed in Merlin lore, as well as those who enjoy similar fantasies, will welcome Tolstoy's contribution. Readers who lack this background can still appreciate the rich, evocative prose and the musings of Merlin et al.-- Ellen Kaye Stoppel, Drake Univ. Law Lib., Des Moines

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Random House Publishing Group
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