(This cover is just as exciting (NOT) as the cover of Taliesin...)
Soooo.... Merlin was not nearly as good as Taliesin. I gave Taliesin 4 stars; I think Merlin will only get 3. It's far from being a bad book, but I may not be the right audience. Like Taliesin, it's epic fantasy and I am just not the biggest epic fantasy fan. But WOW-the writing! Lawhead is definitely a talented writer, and I can see why the hubby reads all his books.
Merlin is the second book in the Pendragon books by Stephen Lawhead, so there may be spoilers for Taliesin below.
This is the Goodreads blurb: It is Roman Britain. Atlantis has been lost forever, and the reign of Arthur must be dreamed and fought into being. (Well, that's descriptive of a 400+ page novel, eh? lol)
So, predictably, Merlin tells the tale of Merlin, Taliesin and Charis' son. The book covers about 3 generations of normal people time, but Merlin doesn't age like normal people, and the book only covers his young and middle adulthood. Merlin really comes into his own over the course of this book. At the beginning we see him as a sometimes emotional, sometime impetuous young king. Then he has a fugue. Then he's a kingmaker (politician). Then he's the "creator" of Arthur.
I really enjoyed and got into the first part of the book and the last part of the book, the parts where he himself is a king and then when he's the kingmaker. But the middle part.... I was totally, utterly lost. I wasn't expecting it. I won't give any spoilers, but events lead to Merlin being alone on a mountaintop living in a cave with a wolf for an unspecified amount of time. And he's lost it. He's nuts and he's filthy and Pelleas has to come find him and drag him home. I think I could have skipped straight from the end of part 1 to the beginning of part 3 and been less lost than I was trying to figure out what the crap was going on in part 2.
However, know that parts 1 & 3 are SO good as to cancel out the confusion of part 2. I do miss Charis. In Merlin we only get Merlin's p.o.v. I'm not a guy, so maybe my sadness at the loss of Charis' p.o.v. influenced my opinion of the whole book. Don't worry; Charis is still around, but we only see her through Merlin's eyes.
So ever since Merlin disappeared to go be a hermit up the mountain, Briton has had a bad High King, Vortigern. When Vortigern is finally killed, two brothers work together to rule Briton. One takes cares of politics and one takes care of the army. It totally works. Until, you know, everything falls apart. This is when Merlin really steps it up. He steps in and helps Briton come together and unite against the Scots and for the new High King. (No spoilers; you'll have to read the book to find out who it is.) He also orchestrates the naming of a babe, Arthur, and the childrearing and training that he will receive. This makes me super excited for Arthur, the next book in the series. I hope it starts right where Merlin leaves off, so that I can see some of Arthur's childhood! I hope he's spunky.
Overall, I give this book 3 stars. I do not begrudge it of the time I spent reading it, and I totally plan to read Arthur. I was confused in the middle, but that might have been reader error, and I missed Charis' p.o.v., but Merlin did amazing things, and Lawhead is a talented enough author to carry the entire epic on one character's shoulders.
*I own my copy of Merlin.