April 4, 2010 1:35pm CST
My friend, Peter Joseph Swanson, has written a number of wonderful books. Most of them are based in the Hollywood of the 1930s, but one stands out particularly, and it has nothing to do with Hollywood. MERLIN'S CHARGE takes a different slant from the usual tales of the Arthurian Legends. In this one, Arthur's a very young boy, and Merlin has sworn to tutor and mentor him until he becomes king. This is NOT Disney's adorable sorcerer, nor is it the lovable Merlin of the TV movie. He's not even the manipulative wizard of EXCALIBUR. This Merlin is far more real than those could be. Merlin is a curmudgeon who takes on the task of mentoring and tutoring Arthur, but he's not thrilled with that idea. He doesn't even like Arthur all that much. He does, however, feel an obligation to help bring the world of the old Pagan ways and the "nowtimes" world of Christianity together in Britain and throughout the world. We follow Arthur and Merlin and their friends on a quest for the holy grail, which will return the drought-and-ruin in Britain to beauty and Camelot's springtime. Their fellow travelers include Parsifal, a boastful young man intent upon making his mark in history, a silly abbot who feels he must stay with them to pray and bring Christian ways to them, and two witches, both of whom Merlin marries along the way. Throughout the quest, they meet with horrifying witches and other supernatural forces, as well as evil, greedy knights. Nature and the supernatural join, it seems, to prevent the little group from finding the grail, as the land and its people suffer and starve. Without giving away too much, Arthur faces obstacles which hasten his growth as a man and a future king. Most of them are Merlin's doing, but before the story ends, Merlin returns to his own world, leaving his charge to work things out for himself. Abandonment? No! It's a chance to allow Arthur to see that he can handle these things, and he'll be a fine, strong and wise king when his time comes. Many of the situations they encounter are funny, a few are sad, and all make compelling reading! Not to ruin the book for those who have not read it, the reader learns aspects of the Legends not well known, but entirely plausible in the legendary way. The author has definitely done his "homework" and gives us the story in a more realistic and mystical way than others ever have. Swanson paints his characters, the land and all of the legend so that the reader creates mental movies in fullest color and well-implemented 3-D! Don't miss this book, if you can help it. It's not a long book, but it is truly a wonderful one!