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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Mammoth Book of Merlin - ed. Mike Ashley

Originally published in 1995 as The Merlin Chronicles, and republished in its current form in 2009, this is indeed a full-sized book of stories centering around King Arthur’s wizard Merlin. And, because Merlin is often linked to Vivian/Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, she features quite prominently in many of the stories as well. She’s probably my favorite character in the mythos, so that was a welcome surprise.

The authors span the 20th century, even one that’s an updated translation of an old Breton legend. There’s something for everyone, from The Sword in the Stone-esque “The Horse that Would be King” by Jennifer Roberson to “Namer of Beasts, Maker of Souls” by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, which is about as allegorical and new-agey as you can get.

My favorites include Charles de Lint’s “Merlin Dreams in the Mondream Wood”, which takes Merlin and his trees into present day, “The Knight of Pale Countenance” by Darrell Schweitzer, a fascinating take on the birth of Merlin, and “The Dragon Line” by Michael Swanwick, another tale set in the present day that puts an interesting twist on Mordred’s tale.

There are many other tales, some taken from portions of large stories, like Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. If you’re a fan of the more mythological side of the Arthurian tales, which is where most of the Merlin tales come from, this is an anthology well worth seeking out.

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