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Friday, October 18, 2013

Merlin's Blade (The Merlin Spiral #1) by Robert Treskillard

A strange meteorite.
A deadly enchantment.
And only Merlin can destroy it.

A meteorite brings a mysterious black stone whose sinister power ensnares everyone except Merlin, the blind son of a swordsmith. Soon, all of Britain will be under its power, and he must destroy the stone—or die trying.

Released: April 16th 2013    
Pages: 432
Publisher: Blink YA Books  
Source: Purchased

First Look: ****This intrigued me because I tend to enjoy books involving the Arthurian legend.  Besides, the cover has a wolf on it, which is cool.  Is there a reason, though, why one of its eyes is a different color than the other?  Quig alert, quig alert, everybody!  Also, what is Merry doing on this cover?  Doesn't it look like him, reflected in the sword?  That was probably supposed to be Merlin, but, well, I kept imagining Merlin as Colin Morgan (there was pretty much nothing the author could have done to either prevent or destroy that mental image).

Setting: *****  
Historical fantasy is a somewhat rare thing in YA fiction, though possibly less rare in Christian YA.  Christian fantasy lends itself well to Arthurian legend, which in turn lends itself well to historical fantasy.  Either way, though, I'd like to see more historical fantasy settings.  For the most part, I liked the historical aspect of this book.  It is set in the year 400-something, in England.  I love how real the medieval village felt (as much as I'm able to tell, having never actually lived in one).  The overpowering religious conflict was interesting, as well as the day-to-day struggles of life during this time.

Characters: ***** Merlin himself was the most likable and the most real out of all the characters.  He's a character in a Christian fiction book who actually makes mistakes; it's sad how rare that is.  I grew to like him by the end of the book, though it took me awhile to get to that point. 

Everyone else seemed one-sided.  Garth was too ungrateful for me to ever like.  Merlin's father had some complexity to him, but not enough to make him feel real.  Nataleyna strayed too far into damsel-in-distress-who-always-needs-a-man-to-save-her territory.  I kept wanting to see some independence from her, but I never did.

 Plot: ***** I tend to have problems with books that start out with non-world-threatening conflicts (that still hold much weight for the characters involved, of course) that, halfway through, turn a little (or a lot) cosmic and large-scale and supernatural.  I don't have a problem with any of those things, in themselves, but sometimes it's annoying to get yourself situated in a story and then suddenly have it change on you.  I had this problem, to some extent, with Merlin's Blade.  It starts out with a smaller-scale story that affects Merlin and his village.  Its smallness doesn't make the story any less compelling.  However, suddenly the king of the entire nation comes into play and we're dealing with something that'll affect the whole country and the future of Christianity.  It wasn't all necessarily bad, but the plot lost some of its hold on me in the transition.

Uniqueness: ****
It's a unique take on Arthurian legend, and takes place in a historical setting that isn't common in YA fiction.

Writing: *****  
It's possible that some of my problems with the writing are on my end, not the book's.  I read this entire book on the Kindle app on my iPad, and I'm not used to reading books on a screen.  I don't know if this would somehow affect how I experienced the narration, or not.  Still, it would've been hard for me to get my hands on a physical copy of this book, and my high school issued every student an iPad this year (I know, I know), so I figured I might as well put it to use. 

Still, though, the writing disoriented me a few times.  My main issue was all of the different point of view sections.  There were too many, in my opinion, with no real transition between them.  Some of them didn't seem necessary at all.

Likes: Nothing not already mentioned.

Not-so-great: Nothing not already mentioned.

Overall: This was an okay book.  I like the old English setting.  The main character, Merlin, was likable and real, though everyone was harder to get to know.  The plot had my attention at the beginning, but started to lose me the farther the book progressed.  The book contained too many different point of view characters, which became disorienting and moved the focus away from the most important (and interesting) character, which was Merlin.

Similar Books: It's a Christian fantasy book with a medieval setting like The Book of Names, the Dragon King trilogy, or the Door Within trilogy.  Its setting and time period is similar to that of Blood Red Horse and its sequels, and the Perfect Fire trilogy.
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