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review 2020-07-02 02:32
Airs Above the Ground
Airs Above the Ground - Mary Stewart

Not her best work, but a fun read nonetheless.  More a straight up mystery than romantic suspense, and while the plot villain was obvious, Stewart at least had some fun misleading the reader about the plot itself.


Aside:  I bought this years ago at a FOTL sale for a dollar; when I finished reading it, I saw that it was published and printed 3 blocks from where I live now.  On its site now sits a 'home improvement store' - Bunnings, the Aussie answer to Home Depot.  A place a spit and swear about every time I have to visit it.  Now, it seems, I have even more reason to dislike it - I'd rather the book publishers were still there.

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review 2020-06-07 13:47
Thornyhold - Mary Stewart

by Mary Stewart


I can see why this is considered one of Mary Stewart's best among her Mystery books. In some ways it shows its age and screams 'pulp', yet it is written with the skill I've seen used in her Merlin series and once it gets going, holds attention and really made me want to know what was going on.


Geillis Ramsay is named after her mother's cousin, who has something of magic about her. It's a quality her mother had as well, until she married a clergyman. Much of Geillis' childhood is characterized by austerity, but when she inherits the house that belonged to her namesake, everything changes.


The house itself is a mystery. Between odd neighbors and strange locked doors, hidden secrets slowly unravel while Geillis discovers just what sort of witch her cousin was. Messages from the dead and animals who behave as if they know more than their new human mistress flavor a story with some interesting and very distinctive characters.


While older stories like this can feel dated, I enjoyed it enough to want to read a couple more of Stewart's better known Mysteries.

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review 2020-04-26 16:42
The Hollow Hills
The Hollow Hills - Mary Stewart

by Mary Stewart


This is the second book of the Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart. It begins where the first book left off, taking us through the lead up to the birth of Arthur through to the moment he is recognised as rightful king.


Most of the story focuses on Merlin himself and his travels as he keeps track of what is going on in the kingdom, making a point of learning what factions are loyal to the king and which pose a threat or which petty kings become overly ambitious when the only son of the High King is not visible to the people.


Like the first book, there are accurate historical references couched within the fantasy element and the story is told in first person in a rich storyteller's tone. The discovery of the legendary sword Excaliber (aka Caliburn) is pure artistic licence, but believable as any of the less practical legends or more so and pulls the story together so that the accepted elements of the Arthurian legend remain mostly intact.


Stewart veers off the traditional track a little with her characters, changing the parentage of Morgan LeFay and splitting her into two characters to fill different purposes. In this her version is entirely her own. She quotes a legend at the end to support the character of Morgause, but gives no reference and I've never seen it anywhere else.


In the latter part of the book, we get to know Arthur as a young man a little. I did feel this part became rushed and the last couple of chapters seemed to skim past the well known elements of the legend far too quickly. Despite my misgivings about the changes she has made to those legends, Mary Stewart tells a deeply atmospheric story and I've enjoyed reading it very much.

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review 2020-04-26 16:15
The Crystal Cave
The Crystal Cave - Mary Stewart

by Mary Stewart


With the recent death of Mary Stewart, I decided it was time to read her Merlin trilogy which had been on my radar for a long time. This is the first book which tells the story of Merlin's life from childhood to the point where the future King Arthur is conceived.


First off, the writing is excellent. I was deep in this story in a way that would normally generate 5 stars. The only reason it only got 4 is because towards the end, the artistic licence that an author of Arthurian fiction must necessarily take veered off into a direction I could not rectify historically.


One of the strengths of the story is that it has a lot of genuine historic references so that the tale of Arthur is painted against a backdrop of known facts. Ambrosius did come to England and route the Saxons in the year given; Vortigern and his son Vortimer are actual historic figures. Vortigern did try to build a stronghold in the place depicted, only to have it fall down time after time because of geological anomalies that Engineers of the time didn't understand.


Merlin himself is depicted as a very believable character, with the sole exception of his attitude towards Christianity near the end. I'm not anti-religion or anything, but a near-conversion doesn't work for Merlin. One could argue about the transitions of Paganism to Christianity around that era, but a student of history will know that it's about a thousand years too early in the fifth century for that level of flexibility between the sets of beliefs.


Despite that, I really enjoyed the book and had trouble putting it down. I'm starting the next book in the series next, The Hollow Hills. I'm also going to try some of Mary Stewart's other books, though I don't know when. She's a brilliant writer and I'm sorry that she's gone now.

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review 2020-04-02 14:11
Rose Cottage
Rose Cottage - Mary Stewart

by Mary Stewart


This one starts out without as much description as previous Mary Stewart books I've read, but by the end of the first chapter exactly what Rose Cottage is has been explained. Much of the first half of the book feels like ordinary things going on, but a mystery presents itself when a hidden cupboard in Rose Cottage is discovered to have been uncovered.


The time period is after the war in the UK when rationing was still in force. A lot of Stewart's use of language fits into the era and creates that dreamy sort of old movie atmosphere.


Mary Stewart has an engaging style and despite waiting for a long time for anything really significant to happen, the story kept my attention. It isn't what you would call high action and it skirts the Women's Fiction category, but a mystery gets solved in the end and there is that touch of romance that Stewart's Mysteries always have.

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