Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Merlin's Nightmare by Robert Treskillard

Sixteen years have passed. Arthur is now eighteen. Merlin is older, married and has children. He is tired of fighting enemies and wants to spend his days with his family, training Arthur for his role as king. But Britain is facing war on three fronts. When Arthur heads south to aid Vortigern, thinking he is following the right path, Merlin is desperate to find the reckless young man and keep him safe from the man who killed his father. Merlin and Arthur must ultimately rally Britain's warriors against three overwhelming enemies: Saxenow (Saxon) hordes in the south, Picti (Painted Ones) raiders in the north, and a new enemy. Morgana, Merlin's sister, has set an army of werewolves loose to destroy Britain. While Merlin and Arthur are away, disaster happens at home as the Picti attack. Arthur must finally take his rightful place as High King. Yet Britain appears to be headed toward destruction.

My review:
While this is the third in a series, it can be read on its own. The author has included enough information at the beginning of the book that the reader is caught up to the present action. There is also a Glossary in the back, very helpful for all the unusual names and terms. That the Glossary is fourteen pages long tells you how many names and places you need to know. There are maps and village layouts at the beginning, again essential for following the action.

The characters have changed since the last book as sixteen years have passed. That caused a little disconnect for me. Merlin is married with children and is fearful and unsure of himself. Arthur is an adult, is brash and ready to move forward. We have missed the growing up years of Arthur and the influence Merlin had on him.

Soon I was right back following the action, however, and there is plenty of it. There are battles galore. There is the stone with the embedded sword. There are druids and hideous sacrifices Arthur and the Britons detest. There is a powerful fang and a magic orb. There are murderous man/wolves and werewolves and a dragon.

I was surprised that the end of this book does not wrap up, at least in some sense, the story. In fact, I felt like this book could have been the first in a series, not the last. We have experienced the background to Arthur becoming High King, now the next adventure begins. It seems it will in the series the author is working on, the Pendragon Spiral.

I found the spiritual aspect of the novel very interesting. Merlin, Arthur, and others are believers in Jesu Christus and call upon Him for help. In opposition are prominent pagan religions. It really gives the reader a sense of the spiritual struggle to control Britain.

Lovers of King Arthur fantasy will like this book. This entire series provides a new take on the background to King Arthur's life and the role Merlin played in it. Teen fantasy readers will enjoy it.

I wish the author had included an historical note informing readers of the aspects of the novel based on historical fact (at least as much as we know). He suggests researching names in the Glossary with asterisks for “a wealth if information.” So I did a Google search for Saxenow (a term with an asterisk) and found only references to Treskillard's books and a person's surname. I did not pursue that idea. Further general searching found one history site saying Vortigern died around 457, with Hengest being defeated (for the first time) then. That is quite different from the dates in this book. Granted, the chronology of the era is an educated guess but a short historical note with a timeline would have helped me understand Treskillard's dates. A page on his website on the history behind the series would be another way to help us put this series in historical context. I read books like this one to learn a little history, not just for escape. I appreciate when the author provides the information for me as a reader.

You can read a sample chapter here.

You can read my review of Merlin's Blade here and Merlin's Shadow here.

I am taking part in the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour of this book. You can read the reviews of others listed below:

Robert Treskillard has been crafting stories from his early youth, and is a software developer, graphic artist, and sometime bladesmith. He and his wife have three children and are still homeschooling their youngest. They live in the country near St. Louis, Missouri. Visit the author's website here. http://www.kingarthur.org.uk/

Blink (a division of Zondervan), 432 pages. Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book or get it here.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, through the CSFF blog tour, for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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