by Mary Stewart
The Crystal Cave
Fifth century Britain is a country of chaos and division after the Roman withdrawal. This is the world of young Merlin, the illegitimate child of a South Wales princess who will not reveal to her son his father’s true identity. Yet Merlin is an extraordinary child, aware at the earliest age that he possesses a great natural gift – the Sight. Against a background of invasion and imprisonment, wars and conquest, Merlin emerges into manhood, and accepts his dramatic role in the New Beginning – the coming of King Arthur.
The Hollow Hills
Keeping watch over the young Arthur Pendragon, the prince and prophet Merlin Ambrosius is haunted by dreams of the magical sword Caliburn, which has been hidden for centuries. When Uther Pendragon is killed in battle, the time of destiny is at hand, and Arthur must claim the fabled sword to become the true High King of Britain.
The Last Enchantment
Arthur Pendragon is King! Unchallenged on the battlefield, he melds the country together in a time of promise. But sinister powers plot to destroy Camelot, and when the witch-queen Morgause — Arthur’s own half sister — ensnares him in an incestuous liaison, a fatal web of love, betrayal, and bloody vengeance is woven.
In this case I’ve included only the first three books in the series. I don’t own the last two books in the series, though I read the fourth years ago and didn’t love it. I haven’t read the fifth.
I have read and re-read these books over the years. I think the paperbacks I own are still the originals I’ve had my whole life, faded and falling apart as they are. There is no Kindle version, dammit. Maybe I’ll have to spring for hardcovers.
Anyway, these are some of the books that made me a fan of fantasy. Yes, I know there aren’t many female characters. The books are written in the first person and considering the source — Merlin, a celibate magician and seer — the views presented feel appropriate. I’ve read other reviews that complain of this being misogynist but I don’t see it that way. He was a man of his times, and the story is told from his point of view. One of the reasons I find Arthurian legend so fascinating is the different takes and viewpoints authors have put on it. The Mists of Avalon, for example, does cover the story from a female point of view. And now of course I want to re-read that one (because despite the author being a despicable person it’s still a great book) and Bernard Cornwell’s trilogy, but I’m about to go on vacation and I am NOT lugging physical books with me! So back to the Kindle it is.