Monday, May 27, 2013

Merlin's Blade: A Review

Title: Merlin’s Blade
Series: The Merlin Spiral #1
Genre: YA Arthurian Legend

Ratings: Craft—4, Content—4,
Overall—3.9 out of 5 stars


A bewitching stone truths a swordsmith’s half-blind son, Merlin, into the middle of a supernatural war for fifth-century Briton.

Excerpt from The Dragon Star, the prologue of Merlin’s Blade:

The pine trees mocked his youth, their thin, green fingers fretting in the wind. If he didn’t move fast, they would betray him—he just knew it—and the deer would get away . . . again. Arvel wiped his brow, stole across an expanse of dead pine needles, and crouched behind a bush strangled by bindweed and its poisonous red berries.

Holding his breath, he nocked an arrow.

The three deer chewed and sniffed.

Arvel’s throat tingled and his body tensed. He parted the leaves at the side of the bush with his arrow as shadows danced on its pewter tip.

The deer twitched their ears and turned their heads in unison. Arvel drew back the bowstring—and winced as the wood creaked.

Instantly, hoofs jerked and legs tensed.

He sped the arrow toward its mark, and it pierced the buck deeply. Even as the does vanished into the forest, the antlered one fell.

Arvel whooped, and the sound echoed across the rock-strewn hills and faded into the deep forest. He stretched his shoulder to ease the tension as he inspected his prize.  The meat would feed his family for many days. At only fourteen winters, he had downed his first deer.

The Craft: I am not and have never been a fan of Arthurian legend. It is a purely personal taste. I know that. But I’ve tended to steer away from the legend retellings as a result.
So it was with some uncertainty I approached Merlin’s Blade, since I wasn’t sure how personal taste would affect my enjoyment of the story. To my contentment, I found Merlin a likeable, relatable character with the type of heroism that made me want to cheer him to success against the odds stacked against him.
Beyond Merlin, the rest of the cast is huge. Some of the secondary characters blur together, but for the most part, the primary players are memorable and distinctive.
As for plotting, the beginning felt a touch on the slow side, probably due to the establishment of world and story going on. However, pacing soon picks up and holds your attention for most of the remainder of the story, despite some of the outcome being foreknown due to familiarity with the legends. Indeed, Mr. Treskillard recognizes this reader knowledge and uses it actually increase tension, a remarkable achievement indeed. Then as a bonus, the end provides us a delightful wrap around to the beginning, even as it provokes interest in the next installment in this retelling.
Overall, Merlin’s Blade is an easy-to-read and enjoyable twist on the familiar legends.
The Content: Merlin’s Blade offers a strong picture of the seductive lure and widespread deadliness of evil as well as the necessity to stand against it. That said, the novel never seemed to become overly dark, which it easily could have. Rather, the power and sovereignty of God shines clearly throughout.

There is a fair amount of violence, including murder, beheading, and a few over gruesome events. However, it is not excessive for the story type or setting. No sexual content to speak of—a few innuendos by a disliked secondary, a couple kisses, and such. The supernatural elements are kept to the stone, the clearly evil magic of the druidow, and Merlin’s uncontrollable visions plus a couple other minor prophetic elements.
Summary: Merlin’s Blade is a fun spinoff of an old legend with an especially likeable and heroic protagonist in Merlin. For teens and adults, highly recommended for the fans of Arthurian legends and a strong recommendation for avid fantasy readers.
Ratings: Craft—4, Content—4, Overall—3.9 out of 5 stars
Disclaimer: In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

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