The whole of Britain is blighted with a drought. In the south, there is war against the Saxenow. In the north, there is war against the Picts. From within, the men of Kernow turn and attack the king’s city. Morgana, a woman with evil powers, drives them on, and has other plots in store.
It would be hard even for King Arthur to save a Britain like this. It’s harder yet for Artorius – young, reckless, and ignorant still of his heritage. But many things are emerging from their hiding places, and not all as welcome as the true king.
With Merlin’s Nightmare, Robert Treskillard completes the Merlin Spiral trilogy. The Merlin Spiral is very much a fantasy series; the magical element is strong, though put into a Christian context. But it is also firmly anchored in the historical reality of the fifth century – more so than many people may realize, given how obscure the fifth century is. (Vortigern may have a firmer place in history than Arthur.)
There’s a sixteen-year jump between the second book and the last, but it works well. I enjoyed seeing Arthur really enter the story. I liked the father-son dynamic between Arthur and Merlin, naturally arising from the earlier books, and I thought they shifted toward their ultimate roles as king and counselor in a subtle, convincing way. And though I did not initially notice it, Merlin’s fear contrasted with Arthur’s recklessness, and eventually both found their way toward the wise middle ground.
Guinevere was introduced in this novel, providing some lighthearted moments. I was also intrigued to see that Robert Treskillard made the beginning of her relationship with Arthur suitably contradicted. (And I wonder – was Lancelot also introduced, though by another name?)
Curiously, the book ends without any great triumph. The heroes enjoyed smaller victories, but a new disaster seemed to come on the heels of every one, and it’s not clear Britain is, on balance, better off when the fighting ended than when it began. Doubtless this is partly due to the fact that the story is not over, and undefeated enemies are held over for the upcoming Pendragon Spiral series. Still, I missed the moment of triumph. I missed the satisfaction of thinking, “It’s over, and they won.”
Merlin’s Nightmare is an intriguing, well-written novel that blends history and myth into a fascinating, innovative re-telling of the Arthurian Legends. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the Pendragon Spiral.
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.