book cover of Merlin\'s Booke

Merlin's Booke

(1986)
A collection of stories by

 
 
Awards
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Best Book (nominee)
World Fantasy Best Collection (nominee)
Centuries of readers have been enthralled by the tales of King Arthur and his court. Malory's fifteenth-century Morte D'Arthur is probably the best known, while in recent times T H White, Mary Stewart, Marion Zimmer Bradley and others have explored and adapted the saga, always finding an audience eager for a new treatment of a very old talc. Even Hollywood and the Broadway stage have fallen under its spell, and done their share to ensure Camelot's continuing popularity. Do we really need another version of the Arthur-Merlin legends? The answer is a resounding yes if the author is as imaginative and creative a storyteller as Jane Yolen. Responsible for numerous fantasy books and stories for both children and adults, Yolen has collected her semi-interconnected tales and poems that deal with the Arthurian legends and uses the magician and tutor Merlin as their focal point. The tales do not have the continuity of a novel, nor are they intended to. Instead, the reader is given fascinating glimpses into the events in Merlin's mysterious life that might have given rise to the often conflicting legends about him. The tales are not exclusively devoted to Merlin; other characters from the Arthurian canon slip in and out as well. Guinevere first appears in a minstrel's tale as the "gwynhfar," an albino monstrosity who will be wedded to the dark prince Artos to "make the kingdom one." Later a more recognizable Guinevere astounds Arthur when she uses common sense to override Merlin's magic. Elaine, who appears in Malory in several guises and as Tennyson's Lady of Shalott, is the heroine of a tale which finds her, as a little girl, in the company of the holy sistership of the Isle of Women, an early feminist group which produces the best swords in the world. But it is Merlin, the magician, the sage, the prophet, who ties the stories together, albeit somewhat loosely. Episodes from his childhood are described; in one, he is tamed from being a wild forest child by a compassionate falconer, and in another, he meets up with a traveling magician who recognizes Merlin's ability to foretell the future in dreams. Gradually a portrait of Merlin emerges, although it is never fully fleshed out, and hints and echoes from previous stories continually tantalize and intrigue the reader. In one tale, for example, the dying Brother who assisted at Merlin's birth reveals that the child was born with a tail that disappeared upon contact with the holy oil. Much later, in a story that takes place at an unspecified time in the future, when what are believed to be Merlin's remains are discovered in a cave, researchers determine that the body they believe to be the magician's bore traces of a vestigial tail. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this extraordinary book is the obvious care that Yolen took in creating new legends to add to the Merlin mythos. Her language is polished and precise, her words obviously chosen very carefully for the best effect. Some of the tales sound as if they had been handed down for generations, so magical and enthralling is Yolen's prose. She almost effortlessly draws the reader into a world half-remembered from other sources but enhanced by new interpretations of familiar themes. Each tale is preceded by a quote from an earlier version of the legends; Yolen uses these as starting points for fresh and sometimes startling variations from the established stories. The book's design and illustrations by Thomas Canty add to its excellence by perfectly matching the mood and the subject. Yolen has performed magic worthy of Merlin himself in breathing new life into the Arthurian legends. Fans of fantasy and folklore and anyone interested in writing that truly weaves its own spell of enchantment are strongly urged to acquire this small masterpiece.


Get it on Google Play

Similar books by other authors

thumb
Black Heart, Ivory Bones
(Fairy Tale Anthologies, book 6)
Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
thumb
Silver Birch, Blood Moon
(Fairy Tale Anthologies, book 5)
Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
thumb
Newton's Cannon
(Age of Unreason, book 1)
Greg Keyes

Used availability for Jane Yolen's Merlin's Booke

Hardback Editions

May 1986 : USA Hardback
thumb

Title: Merlin's Booke
Author(s): Jane Yolen
ISBN: 0-916595-03-X / 978-0-916595-03-6 (USA edition)
Publisher: Steeldragon Pr
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


1986 : USA Hardback
thumb

Title: Merlin's booke
Author(s): Jane Yolen
ISBN: 0-916595-04-8 / 978-0-916595-04-3 (USA edition)
Publisher: SteelDragon Press
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   


Paperback Editions

May 1986 : USA Mass Market Paperback
thumb

Title: Merlin's Booke
Author(s): Jane Yolen
ISBN: 0-441-52552-0 / 978-0-441-52552-2 (USA edition)
Publisher: Ace
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


Kindle Editions

June 2013 : USA, Australia, Canada, UK Kindle edition
thumb

Title: Merlin's Booke: Stories of the Great Wizard
Author(s): Jane Yolen
Publisher: Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU