The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart, is a story in the first person, whereas an elderly Merlin tells of his coming of age. The novel began in medieval Wales in the kingdom of Maridunum. The story then moves to Brittany, or Lesser Britain. He then comes back to Wales, then, the rest of Greater Britain, ending up in Cornwall. The themes of this story are about coming of age, good versus evil and things arent always, as they appear to be. Myrddin Emyrs, also known as Merlin Ambrosius was the bastard child to the Kings daughter.
Myrddin is the name of a god; Emyrs, or Ambrosius, means “child of light,” and Merlin is the name of Roman bird of prey. As a child, he had the Sight and a talent for remaining unnoticed while he gained information. Merlin also knew when his uncle offered him a poisoned apricot. This ability led him to study with Galapas in a cave up on the hill of Myrddin, a god for which Merlin was named. In this cave, was located the crystal cave, where Merlin first learned to control his Sight and where he predicted the mining cave under Vortigerns stronghold and the death of the king.
The night that his grandfather died, Merlin was able to escape his uncle Camlach by burning his servant and friend, Cerdics, dead body in respect. During the fire, he escaped to Brittany, where he found that Ambrosius, a powerful man who planned to depose of Vortigern to become King of Britain, was his true father. Soon, he becomes an advisor to Ambrosius, though seen as a rival by Uther Pendragon, Ambrosius’ brother and war leader. On a trip back to Wales, Vortigern, under the council of his advisors, called on him to die and shed his blood to fortify the walls of his fortress.
He proved him wrong by predicting a battle between a white dragon (Vortigern) and a red dragon (Ambrosius), in which the red one came out victorious. Ambrosius rises to power. Merlin helps to move the Giants Dance from Ireland to England. Ambrosius dies, leaving Uther to inherit the thrown. He fell madly in love with Ygraine, the lover to Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall. Gorlois locked her up in one castle while he himself defended another. Merlin transformed Uther into the guise of Gorlois, himself into Gorloiss captain of the guard, and Uthers friend into Gorloiss friend.
This gained them entry to the castle and trust to Uther from Ygraine. There, in her chambers Britains greatest ruler was conceived, Arthur Pendragon. Merlin is an extremely intelligent individual. His ability to listen in without being detected and his Sight make for a lethal combination when used the right way. Merlins appearance is clearly that of Romans with his dark hair and dark eyes. He looked just like his father. He wore a tunic with a cloak and a brooch with the insignia of the red dragon. He walked with a kind of fearless air, since he did not fear his death, which he already knew when, and how it happened.
He interacted well with his parents, teachers (i. e. , Galapas and Belarius), and servants (i. e. , Moravik, Cadal, and Cerdic). His major conflicts happened between him and his cousin Dinias, his uncle Camlach, his grandfather the King, King Vortigern, and his other uncle Uther. Camlach tried to poison him. The King despised him for being a bastard, even though he has a bastard of his own, Dinias. Dinias would constantly beat him up and sold him to Vortigerns men for blood money. Vortigern tried to kill him in order to build a fortress of fortitude using the bastards blood to support the wall.
It is easy to tell that Merlin isnt really very social with anyone and acts like a recluse. He sneaks around all the time through the hypocaust and loves the seclusion of the hypocaust or the cave. He also is very strong of mind, not letting emotions get in his way, like when he was able to fight back his tears to honor his promise to Cerdic, and burn his body. Also, there was the time that he went across the ocean, in accordance with his fathers wishes, even though he knew he would get nausea and seasickness.
The Crystal Cave draws one in on the first page and doesnt let go until the last. The ending, although great and surprising, leaves one begging for more. It is highly suggested to pick up The Hollow Hills, the next book in Mary Stewarts Arturian saga. This book is, by far the most interesting summer reading assignment, yet. The Crystal Cave and its sequels are highly recommended to anyone who has an imagination and wants to put themselves in the action along side the legendary King Arthur and his infamous advisor Merlin.