Apr 1, 2008

The Young Merlin Trilogy by Jane Yolen (And yet more giveaways!)

Jane Yolen’s Young Merlin Trilogy – Passager, Hobby and Merlin – is a very nice blend of Arthurian legend, tales of feral children, and Green Man mythology. The story follows the great mage Merlin from ages 8 to 12. In the first book, the young Merlin is abandoned in a forest by his family and learns to live among the wilderness, until one year later he is found by Master Robin, whose patience and tenderness bring him back his memory, his name, and his humanity. The second book retells the well-known episode in which Merlin tells King Vortigern why it is that the tower he is trying to build keeps collapsing. Finally, in the last book, a twelve year old Merlin becomes friends with a boy who is later named Artos.

The titles of these three books are falconry terms, and the story is full of allusions to this activity. Master Robin, the man who reclaims Merlin from the wild, who teaches him trust, is a falconer. I thought it was interesting how the book used this terminology to reflect the relationship between wilderness and civilization, and the effects of loneliness, neglect and loss on a child.

The Merlin we see in this story is not yet the Merlin we know. He is lost, he is lonely, and he is confused. He is a child, and he is only just beginning to discover his powers. It is only by the end of the last book, when he takes responsibility for young Arthur-to-be, that we begin to recognize the self-assured mage of legend. But it was exactly this novelty that made me enjoy this trilogy so much. Jane Yolen crafts a brand new version of these well-known tales, and she does it in a way that feels absolutely right. There was something about the tone of the books that really drew me in – there was a certain amount of sadness, of darkness, that really fit the books. And yet at the same time the story remains a hopeful one.

The trilogy feels a bit fragmented, in the sense that you feel that this is part of a bigger tale, but that only makes sense, because after all that’s exactly what this is. Jane Yolen relies on the reader’s knowledge of Arthurian legend and leaves many things unsaid.

This was one of the most original takes on Arthurian lore that I have ever come across. I especially loved the fact that Jane Yolen portrayed the greatest mage of all in such a human way. Highly recommended.

Reviewed at:
Bart's Bookshelf

More BAFAB Week giveaways:

Tanabata is giving away 3 books by 3 Japanese authors. To be entered, just leave her a comment before Saturday. Click here for details.

Literary Feline is giving away two books, one of which has marks of feline approval :P Details here.

Park Avenue Princess is a new blogger, so drop by and say hi! She's giving the winner of her drawing whichever book they choose. Details can be found here.

Eva is giving away Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Name a Traveler and she's doing it in style! She posted fifteen book passages for her readers to guess the author and the book. Even if you already own a copy of the book, trying to guess is lots of fun.

Chris at Book-a-Rama is giving away a copy of 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover by Linda Wisdom. Just click here.

Katrina posted a picture of her bookshelf, and the winner gets to pick a book from it! How cool is that? Details here.

Andi at Antilit is giving away Between the Tides by Patti Callahan here.

Finally, C.B. James is giving away The Master by Colm Toibin here.


  1. hmmm I hadn't heard about this one... I did hear of Young Merlin books by T A Barron and did get book one of that series but haven't read it yet... wondering now if I made the wrong choice!

  2. Good gosh, girl, but you sure are reading up a storm lately! This sounds like another Annie would really, really enjoy. And another I could borrow if she happens to get it ;)

  3. Hi Nymeth! Just checking in on the book of the day! I LOVE IT! Thanks for linking my contest page! You're on mine as well and thank YOU for stopping by!

    That was sweet!

  4. Another great review, Nymeth! This might be a good one for my friend's son. He's really into Arthurian legends and Merlin.

    Thank you for entering and linking my giveaway!

  5. I always saw these Young Merlin books on the shelf and thought they looked kinda cheesy. I'm glad to know more about them, I've changed my mind and aim to read them now!

  6. I haven't read Jane Yolen yet, but I've been eyeing Briar Rose pretty heavily.

  7. I ordered this before I stopped buying books and I think it is at the post office waiting for me to pick it up. It sounds lovely and just the right miz of Arthurian mythology and fantasy for me. I saw yesterday that she has a new hardback out which looked interesting "Once Upon a Time (She Said)".

  8. Deslily: I haven't read the T.A. Baron series yet, but I've heard great things about it. I think they are also a very good choice!

    Debi: I finished this one on the weekend - it was the last of my Spring Break reads. Also, even though it's a trilogy the whole thing is not more than 300 pages long. I do think Annie would enjoy it (and you too, of course)

    Amy: You're welcome :) Thank you too for spreading the word about mine too

    Literary Feline: If he likes Merlin then this is definitely a good one! for him. And you're welcome :) Thank you too!

    Jeane: I think that Jane Yolen's writing avoids cheesiness completely. I really love her stuff.

    Andi: Briar Rose is SO good!

    Rhinoa: I'm glad you got it and I look forward to reading your thoughts on it. That one's a short story collection, right? I have it on my wishlist. It does look very good.

  9. It's been years since I read Jane Yolen, but when I get to summer - the time when I always get great YA reading done - these will definitely be on my list.
    And thanks to linking to my blog.

  10. I've always loved the Arthurian legends. When I was doing research for the OUT2 challenge I saw Yolen's name pop up a lot (and was she the one you recommended for a book about the Holocaust?) I'll have to check out her works--I'm hoping to do some reading with my brother this summer and this sounds like it might be one he would also be interested in.

  11. Andi, you're welcome! I hope you enjoy this one

    Trish: Yup, that's Briar Rose by Jane Yolen. I know that Sleeping Beauty and the Holocaust are an unlikely mix, but she combines the two perfectly. It's such a powerful book.

  12. Yay, my library has this trilogy! I put it on my list for next time I need a quick, fun Arthurian read. I'd love to go on a big Arthurian tear and reread some old favorites. Thanks for the recommendation!


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.