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Celtika [Hardcover]

Robert Holdstock
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1 2003 The Merlin Codex (Book 1)
Centuries before he meets Arthur, Merlin wanders the earth, eternally young, a traveler on the path of magic and learning. During his journeys he encounters Jason and joins his search for the Golden Fleece. It is a decision that will cost him dear...

Hundreds of years later, Merlin hears of a screaming ship in a northern lake and divines that it is the Argo...that Jason still screams out for his sons, stolen by the enchantress Medea and thought dead. But death is not the end, and Merlin's trek to the north leads to the revival of both man and ship, and a new quest, with new companions-to find Jason's sons.

Roving from the frozen north to the blighted island that will become Arthur's realm, from the deep forests of ancient Britain to the sun-washed shores of ancient Greece, Merlin's journey is an epic tale of mystery and enchantment. Celtika begins a retelling of the Arthurian legend unlike any other.

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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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

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 Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars A FLAWED ATTEMPT AT AMBITION Jan. 30 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Out of the gate this book fails because of the first-person narration by Merlin. This style is very constricting since characters can only appear if Merlin encounters them. One reviewer mentioned that Holdstock is writing for the "well read" crowd - this is a true statement, but that does not mean the "well read" crowd is going to like this or appreciate what Holdstock is trying to accomplish, and that is mix the myths so to speak. His writing style is so surreal that at times it is easy to lose the pace of the story - this is compounded by the multiple complications of mixing Greek Gods with Arthurian and Norse legends. The problems of geography notwithstanding because Holdstock has conveniently created "The Path," which Merlin walks, apparently for eternity, allowing him to transverse great amount of distance is short periods of time. The fantasy aspects of the story also fail to impress - for those of you who enjoy fantasy you will recognize the fault of making nearly everything possible - no rules at all (remember the old Batman utility belt?).
Back to the narration, there is so much of it that hardly any dialog is written. The obvious problem with that is nearly zero character development - Merlin explains and describes and things happen around him and a gigantic host of characters pop in and out.
I appreciate the attempt at something different, but I was not fooled by Holdstock's attempt at literary fantasy. One star for an original idea and one star for the really cool paperback cover art.
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Format:Hardcover
I have enjoyed Robert Holdstock's work since his book Mythago Wood
first came out. Like all of Holdstock's work, Celtika weaves
myth and reality together. In Holdstock's book characters from
myth and demigods walk among men and women. Holdstock's earlier
works are full of obcession, love and passion as the world of
humans intersects with the world of myth (or Mythagos). This
gives his earlier work a somewhat dark quality. Although Celtika
opens in the snow and at a haunted lake, this work seems lighter
somehow.
Holdstock is an excellent english stylist and has an encylopedic
knowledge of early history and myth. Celtika is a strange
intersection a time which appears to be between Alexander's
conquests and the rise of the Roman Empire, with mythical greek
history.
Although I suppose Celtika work would be classified as
fantasy, Holdstock does not write classic fantasy. His
stories have a real character to them. The main character,
Merlin, does not wash much, as few people did in the west
before modern times. Celtika recounts a story from earlier
in Merlins very long life where he is seduced by a woman.
She come to him in a sheer dress, smelling of flowers.
As she undresses him she discovers that he is filthy. She
first cleans him before they make love.
Holdstock definitely writes for a well read audience.
The story of Media is interwoven into Celtika and if you
have not read or seen the Greek play Media, it might be
worth reading to understand some of the background in this
story. In particular, why Media is so bitter.
In summary, this is an excellent book...
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Format:Hardcover
Merlin stays young as long as he does not use his magic, but every time he applies the "charm", he ages. Always in a quest for more arcane knowledge, Merlin joins Jason on his crusade to obtain the Golden Fleece. Later the Enchantress Medea kills Jason's two sons and steals their corpses. The grieving former hero sails into the night on the Argo with no reason to live, unable to obtain closure.
Centuries later, Merlin learns that a "screaming" ship is locked inside a frozen lake. Concluding that the vessel must be the Argo, he journeys to help his mourning friend Jason, who screams are for his lost sons. Using his cherished "charm", he raises the Argo at the cost of much of his youth. He next informs Jason that his two sons live. A renewed Jason puts together a new crew of Argonauts set to rescue his children.
Combining Arthurian legend with Greek mythology, Robert Holdstock displays he may be the leading mythologist of modern times. The story line is more than just an epic adventure as the key players, Merlin and Jason learn that no man, no matter how powerful or heroic, is an island. Magic seems unfeigned and the blending of the two epic lines brilliantly conceived and achieved. The first book of the Merlin Codex is a triumph that fantasy readers will relish, keep, and desire immediate release of book two in this terrific opus.
Harriet Klausner
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