The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart
Final Verdict: 3.25 out of 4.0
3 – Plot/Story is interesting & believable.
The Last Enchantment is the third book in Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy (which later became the Arthurian Saga, with the inclusion of a fourth book, The Wicked Day). This portion of the trilogy concerns the waning of Merlin’s power, the fulfillment of his final prophesies, and the rise of Nimue as King’s enchantress. Like its predecessors in the trilogy, this book reinvents some of the major elements of the Merlin legend, such as Merlin’s entombment in the crystal cave, Morgause & Mordred’s lives, and Arthur’s betrayal by Gwenevere and Lancelot (Bedwyr).
3 – Characters well developed.
What this installment of the series does better than its predecessors is that it allows for growth and development of the characters. King Arthur’s leadership style and personality are given more attention and some of the minor characters (such as Gwenevere and the lesser Kings) are also clearly drawn, though in a subtle, understated way. The greatest achievement in this regard is with the character Merlin. This, his final phase, is both sad and noble. The relationship he builds with Nimue is touching and heartbreaking. As Merlin’s early prophecies about his own demise begin to come to fruition, the reader cannot help but hope for Merlin’s success, though it would ironically prove him a failure.
3 – Satisfactory Prose/Style, conducive to the story.
Stewart is a good writer and satisfactory storyteller. The book is constructed in such a way as to progress the story fluidly and rapidly, without it seeming rushed or impatient. Most of the chapters are short, though there are lengthier portions where more time must be spent on a single subject – these choices are made consciously, however, and prove necessary to appreciating and understanding the more important aspects of the overall plot. The only downfall for this edition of the novel is that it is littered with proofing errors. There are multiple instances (particularly nearer to the end of the book) where words are missing or incorrect (“if” instead of “of”, for instance). These grammar and proofreading issues should have been caught prior to publication, so it is no fault of the others and does not necessarily take away from the reading experience (except for OCD English majors such as myself).
Additional Elements: Setting, Symbols/Motifs, Resolution, etc.
4 – Additional elements improve and advance the story.
How does a man of power and consequence deal with the waning of that power and stature? How does a man of supernatural gifts grieve their loss and find a new place for himself in the mortal world? This final installment of the Merlin trilogy deals with the rise and fall of magical and godly powers, yes, but its message resounds with the common reader just the same. This is a story about the circle of life, one which takes us from birth and discovery of the many wondrous, seemingly inexplicable things around us, to coming of age and learning to question what we see and what we think we know; it leads us to explore the power of healthy manhood and the wisdom that comes with elder years, then forces us to confront old age and a new dependency on others. This is a story about love and friendship, war and peace, land and spirit – it is a story about mistakes made, lessons learned, and the very personal meaning of magic.
Suggested Reading for:
Age Level: High School +
Interest: Fantasy, Mythology, Merlin lore, Arthurian Legend, History, Ancient British History.
I am not familiar with this book or the series, but the cover reminded me of Chevalier’s The lady and the Unicorn, which I adored 🙂
I loved all of these books. Is this your first time reading them? I agree that Merlin’s relationship with Nimue was heartbreaking and I love the questions you ask in your additional elements paragraph. It is a beautiful and compelling story but also it always gives me a melancholy feeling. Maybe because it shows days of glory and the waning or destruction of them.
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