Title: The Lost Years of Merlin
Author: T. A. Barron
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pub Date: 2007 (this edition), Philomel Books, (orig. pub date: 1996)
Hardcover, 326 pages
Synopsis (from School Library Journal)
Young Emrys washes up on a Welsh beach with a woman who claims to be his mother. For years, they share a hovel, but Branwen tells him nothing about his past. One day he discovers that he has some unusual powers; using them to kindle a fire in Branwen's defense, he is blinded by the flames. However, he learns to see without eyes?using his "second sight." Desperate to know about his past, Emrys, now 12, sets off on an ocean journey. He lands on Fincayra, where he plunges into a dangerous quest to rescue the island from the destructive blight caused by a pact between its king and an evil power. In the process, he befriends a young Fincayran girl and a dwarf who becomes a giant through a brave deed. Emrys also learns the truth about his origins.
OK, everyone, I have a confession to make. I've never really cared one way or another about Arthurian tales and legends. I don't hate them, nor do I love them--I've just never read beyond what we were required to in school. Although lately I have seen a few titles and reviews that are making me consider delving into the world of Arthur and Merlin. I suppose that you could consider this book the start of that journey.
Really, what drew me to The Lost Years of Merlin were comparisons to Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, a set of books that I love. And naturally, I am interested in most fantasy novels that cross my path. While there is nothing particularly earth-shattering about this story, it is wonderfully well-written and engaging. I imagine that anyone who IS more familiar with the Arthurian legend would find this story of Merlin's lost years to be intriguing. It reads like your typical fantastic quest, and I suppose since I have read a good amount of the genre that I did feel a bit of predictability when reading. However, it by no means ruins the story. I simply wasn't surprised at most of the events that unfolded, and you know what, that's OK. With this story you find likable characters and the interesting premise that you are reading about THE Merlin from the tales of King Arthur, and the lost years of his youth.
By the way, for those of us who love and adore books (that's all of you reading this right?), there are great passages about books in this novel. Both Nymeth and Bart have included some quotes and passages that are worth mentioning, so you should check out their reviews as well! As for me, I am looking forward to continuing the series--as a matter of fact, when I was only halfway through this book, I knew I was going to have to read the rest of them so I went ahead and ordered the entire set, since Books-A-Million has them in their bargains section. There's just something about The Lost Years of Merlin that makes it a comfortable, reliable fantasy read--once again I find myself wishing I had come across this book when it was first published in 1996.
Other reviews of The Lost Years of Merlin: