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review 2016-12-24 03:44
The Crystal Cave - Section The Last
The Crystal Cave - Mary Stewart

The Crystal Cave Book 5 - The Coming of the Bear covers the period between the death of Ambrosius and the conception of Arthur.  Better paced than the sections covering Merlin’s youth, the end of the book wasn’t as strong as the section relating the conquest of Britain by Ambrosius.


It is over 20 years since I first read The Crystal Cave, and my sense of the book has diminished because of the reread.  While I am glad to have joined the buddy read, The Crystal Cave just didn’t hold up to the changing of writing sensibilities.  I will not be continuing with Mary Stewart’s Arthurians at this point.



And thus finishes Task the Twelfth: The Wassail Bowl - Read a book set in the UK, preferably during the medieval or Victorian periods

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text 2016-11-23 04:54
The Crystal Cave – Section 2: The Falcon
The Crystal Cave - Mary Stewart

The Crystal Cave Section 2 – The Falcon covers the adolescence of Myrddin Emrys.  His years from 12 to 18 were spent in Less Britain (aka Brittany) in the household of the exiled Ambrosius

who it is revealed is his father

(spoiler show)

This section is again mostly stage setting, though there are a few memorable visions, most notably the vision of Ambrosius slaying the white bull and those following the encounter with human sacrifice at the hands of arch-druid Belasius.  


 My reading experience improved after I summoned a copy of the book from the library with larger type than the paperback I started with. I can see how the allusions to pre-Christian religions would have titillated the teenage me during my first reading, but as a more mature reader I’m finding The Crystal Cave somehow flat.  Not sure how much of that is the book and how much is from my emotional state following the US election.  


My gut sense is that the original schedule would have had us finishing The Crystal Cave this week.  I’m unlikely to do so, as I’ve been alternating sections of The Crystal Cave with several other reads, but will keep going even if the buddy read has officially moved on to Volume 2.

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review 2016-11-16 14:22
The Crystal Cave
The Crystal Cave - Mary Stewart

by Mary Stewart


I had forgotten that I re-read this when the author died, so my review is basically a repeat of a previous one because my opinions haven't changed.


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.Again. Mary Stewart has a talent for bring her characters to life.


One thing I'll add, I saw this T-shirt ad while I was reading and made a direct connection. If you're reading the book, you'll see why.


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text 2016-11-09 02:22
The Crystal Cave -
The Crystal Cave - Mary Stewart

Mary Stewart’s trilogy about Merlin was my second exposure to the Arthurian Cycle, the first being John Steinbeck’s The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights. I remember reading The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment several times (and based on the original publication date probably also read The Wicked Day shortly after it was released).  I haven’t re-read any of them since my days as a teen bibliomaniac, and the details have faded other than the memory that I found them revelatory when I first discovered them.


Since this is a group read, I thought it might be fun to post after each section though I’m finding myself with not much insightful to say.


The Crystal Cave – Section 1: The Dove


The section entitled The Dove briefly dips into Merlin’s childhood.  While there are a few moments of prophetic vision, the magic of the story hasn’t yet grabbed me.  

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text 2016-11-08 15:02
Reading progress update: I've read 223 out of 494 pages.
The Crystal Cave - Mary Stewart

This is a re-read from high school for me. Mary Stewart's writing definitely stands the test of time.  Anyone who likes Fantasy, Legends or Arthurian literature really is missing something if they don't read this.


I'm going to be careful to avoid spoilers in any updates I do because it's a buddy read and people are reading at different paces.


One thing I will say is that as far as I know, it's the only book that goes into Merlin's childhood and how he came into the magic that defines him. If anyone knows of another, please do tell me!

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