June 27, 2012

The Prince and the Pilgrim by Mary Stewart

Title: The Prince and the Pilgrim
Author: Mary Stewart

Format: HC
Pages: 283
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow, 1996
ISBN-13:     978-0688145385 
Series: Stand Alone

Favorite Quote:  For this was not only the former Queen of Rheged, and Arthur's own sister, but also from all accounts a notable witch, whom men feared, and called Queen Morgan the sorceress, Morgan le Fay.

Synopsis:  The bestselling author of the acclaimed Merlin Trilogy returns to the magical world of King Arthur and Camelot--to tell a story of daring adventure, unexpected love, and unsurpassed enchantment. . . . 

— ALEXANDER THE FATHERLESS — Eager, burning, and young, Alexander has come of age to take vengeance on the treacherous King of Cornwall who murdered his father. He sets off toward Camelot to seek justice from King Arthur, only to be diverted by the beautiful and sensual Morgan le Fay, Arthur's sister. Using her wiles and her enchantments, Morgan persuades the young prince to attempt a theft of the Holy Grail. He is unaware her motives are of the darkest nature. . . .

 ALICE THE PRETTY PILGRIM  Motherless daughter of a royal duke, Alice has lived a life of lively adventure, accompanying her father on his yearly pilgrimages. Now, on her father's final visit to Jerusalem, she comes under the protection of a young prince whose brothers were murdered, a prince who is in possession of an enchanted silver cup believed to be the mysterious Holy Grail itself.

Thus the stage is set for two young seekers to meet--and to find not what they are searching for but, instead, the greatest treasure of all . . . love.

Review:  This story was set in Arthur's Britain, but the King himself was only mentioned.  This is a great side-story though and full of adventure and romance.  It was a super-fast and enthralling read.  I enjoyed it completely and am sad that this is the last book by this author that I own.  I will certainly remedy that in the future.

Rating:  10 / 10

June 26, 2012

The Wicked Day by Mary Stewart

Title: The Wicked Day
Author: Mary Stewart

Format: PB
Pages: 358
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Fawcett, 1984
Series: Merlin, Book 4

Favorite Quotes:  So died Morgause, witch-queen of Lothian and Orkney, leaving by her death and its manner another hellbrew of trouble for her hated brother.

It was war.  This was the day.  This was the wicked day of destiny.

Synopsis:  The Wicked Day is the gripping story of Mordred, bastard son of King Arthur by incest with his half-sister Morgause, witch-queen of Lothian and Orkney. Morgause sent the child to the Orkney Islands to be reared there in secret, in the hope that one day he would become, as Merlin the Enchanter had prophesied, the doom of her hated half-brother.

When Mordred is taken from his rude life as a fisherboy in the islands and suddenly thrust into the full panoply of the High King Arthur's court, he learns of his true parentage and rises to a position of trust in his father's kingdom. But, as the plots and counterplots of the last part of Arthur's reign unfold, Mordred is drawn into the tangled web of tragedy that is the climactic drama of the Arthurian legend.

The Wicked Day breathtakingly displays Mary Stewart's extraordinary gift for bringing the obscure past to life. Her characters are unforgettable: the young Mordred, whose close bond with his father arouses dire jealousies in the High Court at Camelot; his malevolent mother; her four unruly sons by King Lot; King Arthur himself, his Queen Guinevere, his trusted friend Bedwyr; and the warring factions that seek to bring down the bastions of Arthur's new confederation of Britain.

As she did in her earlier Arthurian novels, Mary Stewart challenges the accepted legends in this stirring and danger-ridden tale. Was Mordred in truth a traitor--or the victim of implacable fate? Mary Stewart's view brings tremendous emotional impact to the drama, as Merlin's prophecy hangs broodingly over each moment and the action plays itself out inexorably to the final, wicked day . . .

Review:  I'm so glad to see Mordred portrayed not as some chillingly insane and evil villain.  It's refreshing to find an author who sees that sometimes destiny forces you to do things you'd rather not.  Both Mordred and Arthur are dead now, the Saxons are in Britain, and there is only one more book left by this author about this topic.  I'm not sure what to expect, but I'm looking forward to perhaps a more happy ending.

I liked this book, very nearly as well as any of them but not quite.  I didn't like knowing that Arthur was going to die.

Rating:  9 / 10

June 13, 2012

The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart

Title: The Last Enchantment
Author: Mary Stewart
Format: PB
Pages: 471
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Fawcett, 1979
ISBN-13:     978-0449242070
Series: Merlin, Book 3

Favorite Quote:  I cried out:  "Stay for me, for God's sake!  I'm no ghost!  Stay!  Help me out of here!  Stilicho, stay!"

Synopsis (PBS):  The richest of the three...mighty...climactic...action and suspense constant, even harrowing."-- The Wall Street Journal — Arthur is King! But while unchallenged on the battlefield, sinister powers plot to destroy him in his own Camelot. When the rose-gold witch Morgause, Arthur's half-sister, ensnares him into an incestuous liaison--and bears his son, Mordred, to use to her own evil ends--a fatal web of love, betrayal and bloody vengeance is woven.

Review:  I really like these books.  Morgause is delicously evil.  Guinevere is honorable and not written like she ruined King Arthur's life.  Merlin is at his decline, which I hated to see, but his legacy is passed on to Nimue (who also is not evil in the least in this version of the tale).  Mordred is barely met, but seems innocent enough at this point, although I know he will be the end for Arthur at some point, probably in the next book which I am starting today. 

While I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the last two books of this series, this is a very satisfying and believable tale of King Arthur, Merlin and Camelot.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

June 5, 2012

The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart

Title:  The Hollow Hills
Author:  Mary Stewart
Format: PB
Pages:  436
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Fawcett Crest, 1974
ISBN-13:     978-0449020890
Series: Merlin, Book 2 

Favorite Quote:  It had come by water and by land and lay waiting now for this, to bring Arthur his kingdom, and keep and hold it, and afterwards go from men's sight for ever....

Synopsis (PBS):  A novel that recreates the suspense and excitement of an ancient legend--how Merlin, the enchanter, helped Arthur become king of all Britain. — Once again, as she did in her international best seller The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart uses Arthurian legend to tell a spellbinding story. — The Hollow Hills takes place in a fifth-century Britain fraught with superstition and fear, where no life is safe, no law is stable, and where a king risks accusations of murder and adultery to get himself an heir. For his own safety, the boy Arthur, rejected as a bastard by his father, is long kept ignorant of his parentage.

Dangerous rides through the deep forest of England and Wales, sudden battles amidst brooding mountains, and retreats into secret hollows in the hills provide the background for this tale of Arthur's growth into manhood and his discovery of the strange sword that was to test his claim to power.

Behind and around Arthur always is the mysterious, strong, yet vulnerable figure of Merlin, who see and knows so much but who, like Arthur, must also suffer for the sake of a nation being born. In this world of embattled kings and courtiers, hurried journeys, whispered anxieties, and sudden death, we watch Merlin and Arthur follow their common destiny.

Merlin is the narrator, and his prophetic voice communicates not only the bristling atmosphere of the ancient setting but also the profound relevance of this age-old tale to our own time.

Review:  Oh, so good.  I am thoroughly loving this series.  Merlin and Arthur are wonderful.  Uther is a flawed but genuinely good King.  This retelling of the finding of the sword in the stone is original and believable.  I just loved it.

Rating:  10 / 10
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