The Coming of the King

by Nikolai Tolstoy

Reviewed by Coral


Like Mary Stewart's Merlin series this book tells the story of the life of the enchanter Merlin. Unfortunelty, unlike Stewart's Merlin series, this book is neither interesting nor engrossing in any way, for a lot of reasons.

First off, the idea that three seconds after Merlin is born he's talking, walking, and tucking his mother into bed is slightly disturbing. I kept seeing images of Ally McBeal's dancing baby thing. Like I said, disturbing. What's so wrong with trying to write a realistic portrayal of Merlin, without relying weird fantastical elements like this. Worse, the people who witness his birth view him as a devil, but when he is sent away from that castle no one else seems to find it strange a little one month old baby can already talk. Why was no one else trying to have him killed or something?

Another big problem with the book is the author's language, it's too formal, which makes the book hard to get into (and understand sometimes). An example: "After the escape of his beasts across the Sea of Hafren, the wizard Coll mab Collfrewi donned a bird-cloak in Glyn Dalwyr, uttering verses foretelling their appearance in each of the three equal parts of my life, and of their assistance to my awen in shaping the destiny of the Island of Mighty." Where are all these places? I know that some people think it's annoying to have to flip back and forth from the page your reading to a list telling of ancient and current names, but I'd prefer the list to not knowing where everything is supposed to be set.

I also didn't like how Arthur and his wife Guenhuifar were already married and had gone through a few of their adventures by the time Merlin was born. (Guenhuifar had already been kidnapped and carried off by that Melwas guy).

I've mentioned before that I consider the Arthurian Legend to be a legitimate fandom. Like any reader looking for some good fanfiction, I don't read for original characters, I read it to be immersed into the world of Arthur and Merlin and all the rest of them. Some authors do it well, and some don't (kind of like fanfiction writers). As far as I could tell - the spelling of the names makes it hard to know for sure - none of the major Arthurian players were there. No Mordred. No Lot and all of his sons. Instead we get a mixture of Merlin and Beowulf.

Ugh.

Grade: F