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The Hollow Hills [Mass Market Paperback]

Mary Stewart
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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4.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining May 22 2005
By A Customer
I find Arthurian lit comes in two categories: generic or so far from the legend it's painful.
In this book, Stewart stays faithful to the Arthurian myth while taking what she needs from history and her own imagination. I was particularly impressed with the way she handled the sword issue -- though not entirely faithful to the legend it's all there, sword in the stone and Excalibur, all tying into her own mythology perfectly. As with "The Crystal Cave" I particularly enjoyed the aspects of pagan mythology that tied into the whole story alongside of the Christian aspect.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars Sept. 12 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This print is very difficult to read. Very old looking. Need to be reset.
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0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Outrageously Boring Dec 24 1999
By A Customer
Format:Library Binding
Mary Stewart is considered to be one of the major milestones, if that's the word, in Arthurian Literature. Yet I found myself skipping pages repeatedly. The plot in itself was interesting, mixing traditional arthurian legend with Stewart's own creativity. It is a powerful mix, but the potency is lost. Why? The passages are far too long, the descriptions uninteresting and repetitive. In detailing everything, the story was lost.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  50 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excelent book! May 28 1999
By A Customer - Published on
I started this book with the expectation that it would be equal to it's mediocre prequel. I soon found, however, that Mary Stewart's book "The Hollow Hills" far outdoes "The Crystal Cave". Though both books follow the legend of Arthur fairly well "The Hollow Hills" has more action and the ending is much more satisfying. "The Hollow Hills" continues right from where "The Crystal Cave" leaves off. The main character is the powerful and wise sorcerer, Merlin. The book follows his struggle raising the young Arthur and helping Arthur rise to the position of High King of all Britain. All throughout this there are spies and bounty hunters hired to kill Arthur before he reaches the age he can claim the crown. This book shows a unique view on the Arthurian legends. Instead of following a knight of the round table or the king himself, as in many of the books about King Arthur, it follows a character who appears in most every legend about the infamous King. This book gives Merlin's perspective on all of the events that made King Arthur's life into legend. The book follows Arthurian legend well. Of course, there can be no story that perfectly follows the legend because there are thousands and thousands of legends pertaining to King Arthur. Even though they cannot be all represented in a single interpretation, "The Hollow Hills" follows as many of them as possible without contradicting itself. I does, however, go against some of the more well known legends such as the origin of Excalibur. Mary Stewart is an incredible writer. She describes everything very well without becoming annoyingly detailed. The world that she creates for this book is beautifully sculpted with her masterfully chosen words. All of her characters come alive when reading the book. Unfortunately, the beautiful setting which Mary Stewart uses for this book is not a very realistic representation of Medieval ages. The threat of starvation and disease that ran rampant in those times isn't very well represented. Though the book starts off a little bit slow, after it catches the reader up with the events from the first book, "The Crystal Cave", it quickly speeds up. Mary Stewart uses suspense to keep her readers interested. The suspense also makes the book hard to put down, which is a good attribute for a book. I picked up this book and read through all 436 pages in less than a week. There are simply no good places to put the book down at. The ending leaves the reader satisfied but still wanting to read more. Mary Stewart leaves it so that there can be a sequel but can be read as an individual book and still be appreciated for its full value. The reader looses very little by not reading the other books but still gains very much by reading the others. "The Hollow Hills" is an excellent book about a very interesting time in history. It's a fast paced book and is full of action and suspense. I would gladly recommend this book to anyone who has the slightest interest in King Arthur. I can't wait to read the other two books in the series.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanted, once more July 4 2005
By Richard W Little - Published on
A long time ago, I read Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy, which consists of three books: The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment. I had last read the trilogy back in the mid-1980s, back when I was in high school. So, recently I turned back to these old favorites, and found myself enjoying the tale once again.

Here's a brief background of the story, without spoiling it too much for potential readers. England is suffering under fractured leadership following the departure of the Romans, some time before. England is broken up into several small kingdoms, with a High King to hold them all together, and to try to repell the Saxon threat already encamped on the shores. Into this time, Merlin is born, the bastard child of a local princess. The trilogy tells the tale of his life.

In the first book, Merlin is first a small boy in Wales, where he finds his tutor in magic and the gods and medicine, and is touched by the prophecy which will shape his whole life's work. He flees Wales, for his own protection, and his subsequent actions inexorably lead to the conception of a child: Arthur, the future High King.

In the second book, Merlin is charged by both the High King, Uthur, and his god to keep Arthur in his care, and to train him for his coming challenges. The story closes with Arthur assuming the mantle of leadership, following the passing of Uthur.

In the third book, Arthur and Merlin work to end the Saxon threat, found Camelot, and close with Merlin's final destiny, as he had long since foreseen...almost.

The tale is told in the first person: Merlin. In this fashion, the story feels personal in a way that few other Arthurian fantasies ever have. Merlin, the character, is a sympathetic one: he has good in his heart, he looks after his mission in life with care and humility, and he certainly doesn't buy into this "Merlin the Enchanter" crap circulating about England...though he's not above using it to his benefit from time to time. The other characters in the story are also fleshed out with care...and the characters are certainly not one-dimensional or static.

The storyline is clearly grounded in historical "facts", as much as possible. Clearly Mary Stewart put some time into research, before beginning the writing of this tale.

The writing style is very descriptive. In some novels, the description is somewhat threadbare, willing the reader to fill in the look of the setting to some extent with their own imagination. It's a perfectly valid writing style, and I've enjoyed many books written with that style. Here, however, Mary Stewart has sought to ground us, again, in a historical setting, and she puts a lot of attention into describing the setting so as to help with that grounding process. It's very effective.

So, with the close of the tale, I feel somewhat saddened. Merlin became like a friend. So, I encourage other readers to pick up the challenge, and read the Merlin Trilogy, so you can be touched in this way also.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Legendary trilogy about a legendary king Sept. 6 2006
By Michael K. Smith - Published on
It's not uncommon for the middle volume of a trilogy -- the "bridge" -- to be the weakest of the three, but that's certainly not the case here. The story picks up less than an hour after the end of the first volume, The Crystal Cave, with Merlin having ensured Uther's night of lust with Queen Ygraine of Cornwall and the conception of Arthur, the once and future king (i.e., the "new Ambrosius"). Much of the narrative is taken up with Merlin waiting. First, waiting for the child's birth (while being on the outs with Uther), then waiting for the beginning of his guardianship (when Uther becomes more realistic), then waiting while Arthur spends his infancy in Brittany (during which Merlin hits the road to the ancient lands of the Near East), then a long period of waiting while the boy grows up in the care of Count Ector (and he himself becomes the hermit of the Chapel in the Green). Along the way, he acquires the sword of the Emperor Maximus and tucks it away on a sacred island in a lake, knowing Arthur will recover it himself in good time. And, of course, the waiting ends with Arthur being hailed as High King at age fourteen, minutes after his presentation to the lesser kings and his father's sudden death at a victory dinner. The pacing is a bit slower, but there's a strong sense of inevitability, both for Merlin and for the reader. Stewart's amazingly sensitive and evocative descriptive powers are strong as ever. One of my favorite lines, on why you should never take the favor of the gods for granted: "The gods like the taste of salt; the sweat of human effort is the savour of their sacrifices." Marvelous stuff.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forget the Cruise! Sept. 18 1998
By R. Shaff - Published on
I was on a Caribbean cruise when I read this book. After about 40 pages, I had no interest in blue water or glamorous ports-of-call. To read this book is to understand Merlin. Call it "fiction;" I couldn't put it down. Read it! Add it to your library now!
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit long, but hang in there! Dec 7 1999
By Phuongha Vo - Published on
This book, from the beginning was a bit scary. I say scary in the fact that it is a very thick book. I did not let that stop me, and a beautiful story unfolded before me. It is true that this story has a slow beginning, but if you hang in there you won't want to put the book down. The setting, the characters, the whole meat of this book is will draw you the reader so into the book that you will find it hard to put the book down. I personally love fantasy books. If you don't, after this one maybe you'll reconsider. Basically we get to watch how merlin handles the task of raising the soon to be king Arthur. There are many tasks and obstacles that merlin and his apprentice must overcome. It comes to an action-packed conclusion that you should not miss. Take my word for it and read thisa book. Like I said, it starts off slow but it will go 90mph as soon as you reach the second part of the book.
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