Through a man’s life there are milestones, things he remembers even into the hour of his death. God knows that I have had more than a man’s share of rich memories; the lives and deaths of kings, the coming and going of gods, the founding and destroying of kingdoms. But it is not always these great events that stick in the mind: here, now, in this final darkness, it is the small times that come back to me most vividly, the quiet human moments which I should like to live again, rather than the flaming times of power. I can still see, how clearly, the golden sunlight of that quiet afternoon. There is the sound of the spring, and the falling liquid of the thrush’s song, the humming of the wild bees, the sudden flurry of the white hound scratching for fleas, and the sizzling sound of cooking where Arthur knelt over the wood fire, turning the trout on a spit of hazel, his face solemn, exalted, calm, lighted from within by whatever it is that sets such men alight. It was his beginning, and he knew it.
He did not ask me much, though a thousand questions must have been knocking at his lips. I think he knew, without knowing how, that we were on the threshold of events too great for talk. There are some things that one hesitates to bring down into words. Words change an idea by definitions too precise, meanings too hung about with the references of every day.
Author: Mary Stewart
Mini-Synopsis: Charged with the care of the infant who will become King Arthur, Merlin works his science and magic together to protect the boy, to raise him as destiny demands. Merlin’s narration takes us from Arthur’s birth through his presentation to Uther Pendragon, the pulling of the sword from the stone, and the recognition of him as king.
Mini-Notes: While The Hollow Hills got a slower start than The Crystal Cave—for me, at least, perhaps because I was so looking forward to seeing Arthur developed as a character—the last third of the book ought to have speed and suspense enough for anyone. Stewart’s descriptive prose carries the earlier portions and perseveres right through the climax to the finale, infusing all the scandal and the glory of the Arthurian legend with a vivid sense of place and a very believable immanence. Her realism could have sucked some of the magic from the story, had her imagery not been so beautiful at all the right moments.
This is a thoroughly quality, readable, and—I think—unique take on the myth. I’m no Mithraist, and I haven’t been looking in fires, but I foresee myself tracking down the third installment before the year ends.