Title: Merlin’s Shadow
Series: Merlin Spiral #2
Author: Robert Treskillard
Genre: YA Arthurian Legends (Fantasy)
Ratings: Craft—4, Content—4,
Overall—3.9 out of 5 stars
Excerpt from “Remnants” the prologue of Merlin’s Shadow:
In the half-light of a dying day, Ganieda wept in her mother’s embrace. She felt again the burning of her mother’s forehead.
Ashen birds silenced their squawking and watched the two with hungry eyes. Dark clouds gathered overhead, and farther up the tree-lined ravine, a spring gurgled out brown water that trickled past them in dirge-like procession toward the marsh.
Ganieda had been hungry in the morning—so hungry—but now fear had soured her stomach. As the day had worn on, her mother began to rave, refusing to drink and scratching her puffed, infected arm. Now screeching cries filled the gaps between her mother’s words.
Ganieda pulled her hand from her mother’s forehead. How it burned!
Her mother shrieked, her jaw shaking and lips curled in cracked anguish. “Dark, Gana, my bairn . . . so dark . . . the worms are eatin’ ma skin.”
Ganieda trembled, for the wound on her mother’s left arm had burst open, oozing forth pus and blood.
“Merlin . . . he’s killed me, ya hear?”
Merlin and his allies fight to protect a very young Arthur from those who would use or kill him.
The Craft: Merlin’s Shadow continues to spin a strong story from ancient lore, picking up where Merlin’s Blade left off.
For though it took me a few chapters to get back into the story, I think that was a personal problem. Overall, the story is tightly plotted, and the tension is constantly maintained. Considering legend guarantees certain outcomes (e.g. Arthur’s survival), that can be difficult to pull off, but pull it off Mr. Treskillard does.
The characters are varied and identifiable, even the villainous ones. The descriptions are detailed without dragging the story down. The settings are vividly drawn. Merlin’s character arc felt a bit choppy—even contrived?—but again that may be just me.
Overall, Merlin’s Shadow continues a well-written and fresh twist on the Arthurian legend.
The Content: Merlin’s Shadow has almost as many thematic threads as there are plots and characters. They range from the lure of desire (whether power, life, youth, or love) to the big questions of life, like why does bad happen, while several characters wrestle with the opposite pulls of faith and doubt.
Concerning other common problematic areas, there is (not unexpectedly) a high amount of violence, primarily in the arenas of war and combat. These are elements are described, but not dwelt on.
The extremely high mount of the supernatural is not surprising either, both in the areas of the good and the bad. However, the use of these seems to conform to the basic standards of supernatural power (portrayed for what it is, properly attributed, life versus death, the uncontrollable nature the good supernatural).
Lastly, there are some minor reference to drinking/drunkenness and drugging. No major use of sexuality or cursing comes to mind.
Summary: While Merlin’s Shadow isn’t a book I personally fell in love with, it remains a fascinating take on legend supported by strong writing. Those with hypersensitivity to supernatural or magical elements probably should tread with care, even though the elements seem to be properly handled. However, highly recommended for fantasy fanatics and a must-read for those who love Arthurian legend.
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.