From Publishers Weekly
In British author Holdstock's dazzling reframing of Arthurian myth and Greek legend, a wandering, youthful Merlin who ages only when he uses his "charm" encounters Jason and joins him on his quest aboard the Argo for the Golden Fleece. Known to Jason as Antiokus, Merlin is present when the enchantress Medea kills Jason's two sons and absconds with the bodies. The Argo slips her moorings and sails off into the night, a broken ship carrying a broken man to their mutual grave. Centuries later, Merlin hears of a screaming ship in a frozen lake. Divining that the screams come from Jason, still yearning for his lost sons, Merlin struggles north, for he has learned that Jason's sons are alive. Using his jealously guarded magic, Merlin raises the Argo and the still living Jason, who gathers new Argonauts-Urtha, Ullanna and Niiv-to search for his sons. Family and loss are central to this poignant new telling of Merlin's story. And even Merlin, who for so long considered himself a solitary traveler on the pathways of magic, realizes that he's not as alone as he once thought. With this remarkable work, Holdstock, a World Fantasy Award winner for Mythago Wood (1985), more than lives up to his billing as one of the finest living crafters of myth.
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Holdstock's latest mythic fantasy launches the autobiography of Merlin. It begins long before the time of the Matter of Britain, when Merlin, already a powerful mage who has sailed with Jason on the Argo
, is trying to help Jason find the old ship and his two sons, who may not have been murdered by Medea, after all. The quest takes king and mage to Scandinavia to bring the ship back to life, then to Alba--England, that is. There they become comrades of a warrior on a quest for vengeance, and that plops them in the middle of the historic invasion of Greece by Brennus the Gaul. Merlin has conflicts of interest, in that he and Medea are both members of the same order of mage. Readers may also feel conflicted over whether splendid individual scenes and fine, deep characterizations compensate for a narrative so laden with mythic and folkloric references that it is hard to follow. But Holdstock has justified staying with him before, and he has more of Merlin's adventures in the offing. Roland GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved