|Merlin fortells Vortigern's defeat|
from Geoffrey's Prophecies of Merlin
The remaining books carry through the tumultuous life of Arthur and his marriage to the barren and pious Guinevere, his death at the hands of his nephew and illegitimate son Mordred, and his burial on the lost holy isle of Avalon, leaving Merlin the sorcerer both dead and alive in the hollow hills of Wales, awaiting in patience Britain's future need for a resurrected Arthur, its shining and unconquered Christmas king. Somehow I doubt if that last bit came from Geoffrey; it sounds heretical.
I rarely enjoy fantasy, but Stewart's retelling of Geoffrey's Arthurian saga has all the elements of a juicy soap opera writ large. When these people screw up they do it royally, and kingdoms rise and fall. This series is not fantasy in the usual juvenile sword-and-sorcery, spell-casting mold. Merlin is by far the most interesting character, as he wrestles with his terrible gift and implacable god for his often-ungrateful kings. The writing evokes ancient Britain with its crofts and crafts, misty hills and thundering surf, and haunted bloody history in beautiful prose and fascinating detail. I have all of the books, but downloaded the entire series in one massive ebook for convenience. Unfortunately, most of the forewords and all of the maps (I love maps) are missing from the electronic version. However you celebrate this season––with crèches, menorahs, yule logs, or Santa and the reindeer––the season (barring the Mayan end of time) will turn and the days begin to lengthen toward Spring and light. So relax, however you've done it, you've somehow done it right. Again.
|Ruins of Tintagel in Cornwall, birthplace of King Arthur|