The Lost Years of Merlin is the initial installment of the five book series chronicling Merlin’s life as a boy, a prequel to Arthurian legend. It follows the ambiguous details of Emry’s obscure youth and the path he followed leading to the emergence of his magic and the wizarding name he proclaimed of Merlin. Barron’s imagineering of this portion of the great wizard’s life gives new depth to the renowned character as we see his life through the eyes of a young boy.
The story opens with a dream sequence foreshadowing a time magic escaped his fingertips to unleash a fire kindled in Branwen’s defense (the woman claiming to be his mother) the very fire whose flames took his sight leaving him blind until he learned to use his gift of “second sight”.
Emrys, now 12, is desperate to know of his past and why he has no memory of a time before five years ago when he and Branwen washed upon the shore. She claimed to be his mother but would not speak of their past or where they came from. Instead she taught him the lore of the Celts, Druids and those more ancient. She felt his lost memory was a blessing, the young boy considered it more of a curse. The pair shared a lowly hut they constructed themselves on the outskirts of a small village. Whenever anyone from the village was ill or injured, they would come to Branwen bartering for her services as a gifted healer as she was well acquainted with the old ways and herbal remedies. When in need of her services the villagers sang praises to her unique talents, but the truth of the matter was, they were afraid and thought her to be a sorceress or demon. One day the village bully came to their hut and set fire in an attempt to free the village of this “she-demon”, as he and two of his minions grabbed Branwen by the legs and began dragging her into the fire, Emrys’ fear and rage swelled within, coursing and raging as he ran forward trying to help his mother. He could not control it any longer and felt the bully, Dinatius, should burn for this. He could envision the fires and wished they would consume the bully. At the thought, an enormous tree branch shuddered and cracked as if struck by lightening; it fell upon the young bully trapping him as the branches exploded into flames. As the spine shivering shrieks erupted from the inferno Emrys knew what he had done as he plunged into the flames trying to save the boy. His dream vision had come to pass.
As the young half-blind Emrys struggles to learn the secrets of his past, the magic within him, and his true identity he comes to the realization he must leave this place, returning to the place he had washed upon the shore to make the attempt to voyage back to the mist-shrouded isle of Fincayra, an enchanted isle that lies between earth and sky. He asks the woman who calls herself his mother to join him in his quest. With great sadness she declines, but takes a jeweled pendant from her neck, presenting it to him. She calls it the Galator and tells him its power is great – if it cannot keep him safe it is only because nothing outside of heaven can. Mighty waves crashed over his feeble raft tossing it about as a mere twig on the outraged sea. The storm swelled and he thought about calling upon his powers to save him but after the last fiery encounter with his magic, he became less afraid of the violent storm than trying to unleash a magic he might not be able to control. The waves pounded over him and when he felt he could hold onto his little wooden raft no more the mysterious shrouded isle appeared and he is again washed upon the shore.
As he comes to and regains a bit of strength he ventures further into the strange land. The colors are so vivacious he can sense them, even through his half-blinded eyes. He can feel the plushness of the forest floor and he meets a merlin, its wing broken in battle with a rat, a strange girl of the forest called Rhia, and a tiny but brave giant named Shim. Emrys discovers that blight has come upon the isle that is somehow entwined with his own destiny. He must decipher the riddle of the dance of the giants to change the fate of this land and discover the secrets within himself.
This is an engaging and enjoyable tale you will want to experience many times over. It explains the roots of the greatest wizard of legend and myth in an epic saga filled with wonder and adventure.
THE LOST YEARS OF MERLIN (book 1)
By TA Barron
Genre: Juvenile Fantasy
Hardback: 336 pages
Recommended for Ages: 9-12