Mad Merlin

Written by Robert J. King
Review by Tracey Callison

In this dazzling addition to the ranks of Arthuriana (King’s first non-game based novel), Merlin is a fallen god bereft of believers because of the ascendancy of the Christian God and His followers. This former God of air has become little more than human, possessed of strong powers and lost in the mists of madness and chaos. In this adaptation, the story of Arthur is literally one of old gods versus new, and the struggle is not only for the land but for the hearts and minds of the people whose belief keeps them alive. Arthur is fully human but possess Excalibur, the spirit of Jehovah made manifest into the God-killing sword. By his side rules Guinevere, a fey queen who wields the power of the land as long as she continues to be chaste. Together, they unite Britannia against the Saxon God Wotan and his followers, who would destroy all they behold. They also build Camelot, which is a sanctuary not only for men but the fey as well. Titanic clashes result as men, gods and the otherworldly battle for the future of a nation.

The focus is on Merlin, and the story ends with his withdrawal from the world of men, leaving the dark end of Arthur’s reign foreshadowed but untold. It’s a story that stands on its own as we follow him from the depths of his madness into the glory of his power reshaped. This is a rollicking good story, chock full of wit, humor and excitement, not to mention a liberal sprinkling of “pourquoi tales” (ever wonder how Stonehenge really got where it was?). King’s departure from the traditional narrative keeps suspense fully alive, and one turns the last page with a sigh of contentment and a burning desire for more.

Tracey Callison