In the first book of this series, we got to see the main character embark on an epic Tolkien-esce quest to destroy a powerful and evil king. Now, we get to see him fail in his endeavors, which is mostly what this second book entails. Much of the book’s plot is set up by a mess of Merlin’s own making. However, through his endeavors here, the author lays the ground-work for Merlin’s evolution into the famous mythological figure that we know today. Unlike the first book, the author shares more of Merlin the person, which includes his self-doubt and arrogance, both of which cost him dearly. At times, these humanizing qualities feel overdone, and leave the reader with an impression of the main character as whiny and bratty, at times, though it is worth noting that he is described as being only thirteen.
While I did enjoy this book, I don’t really have that much to say about the plot itself. It was well-written and engaging, straight-up fantasy. There’s much to enjoy, not as much to analyze. This is also a problem that Barron’s Merlin faces as well. Throughout the course of the book, we see instance after instance where he is blinded by his own arrogance and does analyze his own actions. He has trouble reconciling his own worldview with that of the landscape at large and others’ opinions, something that I’m sure most people struggle with from time to time.
We tend to think of Merlin as wise and rather omnipotent in knowledge, which is how he is portrayed in many depictions. However, Barron knocks him down several pegs in this book, displaying all of his flaws. We see him stumble, make messes, and then scramble to fix them, which is great as far as character development goes. Although, the one thing that did bother me about that was how much of a brat he was at times. I get that teenagers, like a bad case of flu, can be a particular brand of awful, but this seemed excessive at times. The author, I think, was attempting to juxtapose Merlin as gifted with wisdom far beyond his years, but also a character that acted like a regular teen, whatever that means. Unfortunately for me, that was not the case. The character at times grated on my nerves, and seemed to display childishness and arrogance out of nowhere. His behavior seemed somewhat random occasionally. Near the end, there is also a plot twist that felt like a last minute after-thought. Looking back, I can see that there were subtle hints that lead up to that, so it wasn’t completely out of nowhere, but it didn’t exactly read as cohesive either.
Overall, I actually did enjoy this book and the plot; however, it could have been better. There were a couple of problems for me with the character portrayal and the way in which the plot moved, but considering format of the book, which is only spanned over a month, I can see how that can be expected. This was a very middle of the road, but pleasant way to spend time with.
Jarad attends Middle Tennessee State University, loves tea, and tries to spend every spare second reading. Jarad is majoring in English. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!