The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse

8942147“We slipped into this country like thieves, onto the land that once was ours.” With these words, spoken by an illegal Mexican day laborer, The Madonnas of Echo Park takes us into the unseen world of Los Angeles, following the men and women who cook the meals, clean the homes, and struggle to lose their ethnic identity in the pursuit of the American dream.


The Madonnas of Echo Park is a collection of short stories by Mexican American writer Brando Skyhorse. Although I seldom review short stories on this blog, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to pay homage to such beautiful work of literature.

Having won both the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction, this novel really lives up to its hype. Each chapter is a different story told in first person in a beautifully crafted prose highlighting the intersections and clashes of American and Mexican culture.

In Los Angeles, you could rent an apartment, buy groceries, cash checks, and socialize, all in Spanish.

The Madonnas of Echo Park tells the stories of Mexican Americans in the constantly changing landscape of Los Angeles’s Echo Park neighborhood, a predominantly Latino community. This novel compiles a collection of interrelated stories that are heavily character-driven and that leave you contemplating the themes present in each story long after you finish reading the book.

“Faith is a luxury for those who are able to ignore what the rest of us must see every day. Pessimism, distrust, and irony are the holy trinity of my religion, irony in particular.”

“The time between your first major fight with your best friend until you make up is, for a teenage girl, about as long as it took for God to create the universe. . . . It’s excellent training for having a boyfriend.”


Format: Paperback240 pages
Published: February 8th, 2011 by Free Press (first published June 1st, 2010)
ISBN: 1439170843
Source: Purchased
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fiction

Gunpowder Moon by David Pedreira

36692151It’s 2072, and lunar helium-3 mining is powering the fusion reactors that are bringing Earth back from environmental disaster. But competing for the richest prize in the history of the world has destroyed the oldest rule in space: Safety for All. When a bomb kills one of Dechert’s diggers on Mare Serenitatis, the haunted veteran goes on the hunt to expose the culprit before more blood is spilled. But as Dechert races to solve the first murder in the history of the Moon, he gets caught in the crosshairs of two global powers spoiling for a fight. Reluctant to be the match that lights this powder-keg, Dechert knows his life and those of his crew are meaningless to the politicians. Even worse, he knows the killer is still out there, hunting. In his desperate attempts to save his crew and prevent the catastrophe he sees coming, the former Marine uncovers a dangerous conspiracy that, with one spark, can ignite a full lunar war, wipe out his team . . . and perhaps plunge the Earth back into darkness.


In 2072 the moon is populated by several international companies mining the moon’s soil for a substance known as Helium-3, a nonradioactive solar isotope that is easily contained and used to power reactors on Earth.

Caden Dechert is in charge of the American mining company. Things appeared to be running smoothly until one of Dechert’s crew member is found dead. Suspecting that the death was not an accident, Dechert races against time to find out the truth behind this lunar murder.

The gunpowder smell of moondust filled his nostrils, and his head hurt too much to work the mystery.

Gunpowder Moon is my sci-fi monthly book club pick, and I have to say I’m pleased we chose this novel. Sci-fi meets whodunnit mystery, Pedreira’s writing keeps you guessing until the end in this fast-paced story. I particularly enjoyed the tension he built in the book. As for character development, Dechert was by far the best. All the other characters felt a bit flat throughout the story. Pedreira did an excellent job researching the topic and moving the story nicely. This is not a very long book, and at times I wished that the sci-fi parts regarding the moon had been better explored. Overall, Gunpowder Moon was an interesting read.

That’s the moon, commissioner: hours of boredom followed by a few seconds of terror.


Format: Paperback, 289 pages
Published: February 13th, 2018 by Harper Voyager
ISBN: 0062676083
Source: Library loan
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Sci-fi, Mystery

The Sunday Post/Book Haul

IMG_1619The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. A post to recap the past week, and share news about the upcoming week. First Sunday of the month is also book haul Sunday. My monthly book haul is where I take an account of all the books I have acquired this past April. I don’t review all the books I read. Some books I’ll write a small review on Goodreads, some I’ll just rate, and some reviews I’ll publish on this blog. I list books I acquired through purchase, library loans, monthly book box subscription, ARCs, as well as books received from authors. My TBR list continues to grow and I’m hoping to get through most of these titles by the next book haul at the end of May.

Book Haul 3

HARDCOVERS

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I’m excited about reading The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell. This is the story of a Rachel Monroe a twenty-six-year-old girl who has a secret—she can make people’s wishes come true. Unfortunately, sometimes granting people’s wishes can be disastrous, so Rachael leaves her hometown and finds herself in Nowhere, North Carolina.

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The Turn by Kim Harrison is the prequel to her series Hollow. In this prequel Trisk, and her rival Kal have a single goal—to save their species from extinction. When a genetically modified tomato created to feed the world is combined with a virus, a plague rises giving the paranormal species the choice to stay hidden and allow humanity to die or to show themselves in a bid to save the human race.

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I have very mixed feelings about reading Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott. Being a nurse, I have never gravitated toward books about disease and illness. Dealing with the sick and the dying is part of my day job and one of the things I love about books is that they transport me to another world. Every now and then I’ll take a chance on a book that deals with topics of illness and hospitalizations. Five Feet Apart is the story of Stella Grant, a teenager suffering from cystic fibrosis. Stella is more than used to keeping people away and avoiding infections or anything that can threaten her chances of getting a lung transplant. One day she meets Will Newman, a kid who is the complete opposite of her. I sense this one will be a heartbreaker.

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Emily A. Duncan’s Wicked Saints came in my Owlcrate box for the month of April. I’ve been hearing a lot of good hype about this book which is the number one in the Dark and Holy series. This is the story of a girl who can speak to gods and now must save her people without destroying herself.

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Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson is the story of three women who on the eve of 9/11 realize that in order to survive, they’ll have to stick together.

PAPERBACKS

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I have been meaning to read The Stand by Stephen King for years. In this Horror, meets sci-fi, meets fantasy a patient escapes from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a deadly weapon: a mutated strain of super-flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the world’s population within a few weeks.

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The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson is book one in the Mistborn series. I’m more than thrilled to read this book. I have heard so many great things about this series and this book in particular.

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Another book by Brandon Sanderson that I have been dying to read for the past at least three years is The Way of Kings, book one of The Stormlight Archive.  It took Sanderson ten years of planning, writing, and world building. I can’t wait!

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Probably one of my boldest literary endeavors this year. I have been intimidated by Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace for so many years that finally as one of my New Year’s resolution I have decided that this year of 2019 I was going to bite the bullet and tackle this big boy. This will not be my first time reading Tolstoy. I’ve read Anna Karenina and didn’t think it was that bad, so fingers crossed!

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Another book that first called my attention because of the beautiful cover was The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I have heard so many wonderful things about this book that I really need to check this one out.

What We Do for Love by Anne Pfeffer

What We Do for Love is a book by Anne Pfeffer I will be reviewing soon as part of a blog tour I’m doing with iRead Blog Tours. Looks interesting, loved the cover, let’s see!

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The Song of Jade and Lily by Kirsty Manning is another beautiful cover I’ll be reviewing soon as part of a blog tour with TLC book tours.

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The Mister by E.L. James seems like an interesting book, Let’s see if he can write more than Fifty Shades.

ARCs

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I received Last Summer by Kerry Lonsdale (NetGalley)

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One Night Gone by Tara Laskowski (NetGalley)

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Forgotten Bones by Vivian Barz (NetGalley)

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All Of Us With Wings by Michelle Ruiz Keil (Edelweiss)

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Mom’s Perfect Boyfriend by Crystal Hemmingway

LIBRARY LOANS

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Murder Past Due by Miranda Jones. Book one in a Cat in The Stacks Mystery

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The Overstory by Richard Powers

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Gunpowder Moon by David Pereira

AUDIOBOOKS

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Magyk by Angie Sage. Book one in the Septimus Heap series.


Have you read any of these titles? Any particular opinion on them? Please let me know on the comments below and HAPPY READING! 🙂

 

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

6288A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.


The Road starts in a post-apocalyptic world that explains very little if any of what the apocalyptic event was. Father and son are traveling through burned America. The land is full of ash and devoid of life, so to avoid the harsh winter, father and son set out to the coast. They have minimal possessions except for a revolver to protect them from “the bad guys”–the cannibals. Father and son endure several episodes of starvation and struggles trying to survive until they reach the coast.

The Road is a small book I read in a couple of hours. It’s a relatively simple book with a minimal plot. I was astounded to find out it had won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2007. Even more surprising to me was the amount of five and four-star reviews this book received on Goodreads.

One thing I love about literary fiction is its ability to free-flow and not follow grammatical rules to dictate its pursuit of more poetic prose. Unfortunately, I didn’t think this book was particularly poetic. McCarthy took a lot of freedom in his writing. Sometimes it worked, but for the majority of the book, it didn’t. I was annoyed at his lack of parentheses and lack of dialogue attribute, which made understanding who was saying what difficult at times. As far as dialogue goes the ones in this book were the simplest I’ve read in a long time.

Can I ask you something?

Yes. Of course.

Are we going to die?

Sometime. Not now.

And we’re still going south.

Yes.

So we’ll be warm.

Yes.

Okay.

Okay what?

Nothing. Just okay.

Go to sleep.

Okay.

The fact that The Road offers no answers whatsoever did not bother me at all. One redeeming quality of this novel was the bond between father and son. In a world where nothing is left, all they had were their love for each other.

You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.

I’m ready to forget this novel–wait! I already did.


Format: Kindle, 324 pages.
Published: March 20th, 2007 by Vintage (first published September 26th, 2006)
ASIN: B000OI0G1Q
Source: Library loan
Rating: 2 stars
Genre: Literary Fiction, Sci-Fi

Death in Kew Gardens by Jennifer Ashley

41867421In return for a random act of kindness, scholar Li Bai Chang presents young cook Kat Holloway with a rare and precious gift—a box of tea. Kat thinks no more of her unusual visitor until two days later when the kitchen erupts with the news that Lady Cynthia’s next-door neighbor has been murdered. Known about London as an “Old China Hand,” the victim claimed to be an expert in the language and customs of China, acting as an intermediary for merchants and government officials. But Sir Jacob’s dealings were not what they seemed, and when the authorities accuse Mr. Li of the crime, Kat and Daniel find themselves embroiled in a world of deadly secrets that reach from the gilded homes of Mayfair to the beautiful wonder of Kew Gardens.


Death in Kew Gardens is Jennifer Ashley’s third book in the Below Stairs Mysteries, featuring the fantastic Kat Holloway. The book starts with Kat, a cook who works for a wealthy family in Victorian England. One day Kat receives a gift from a mysterious Chinese man in return for an act of kindness. It is a rare box of tea, and that same night Kat’s next door neighbor, Sir Jacob Harkness is found dead. The secret Chinese man becomes a prime suspect, and now Kat and Daniel must run against time to find the murderer.

I did not read book one or book two and some of you, who have followed my reviews, know that I don’t particularly enjoy reading books that belong to a series I’ve never read before. Let me tell you that Death in Kew Gardens is an exception to that rule. Although it would’ve been lovely to know more about Kat and Daniel, I felt this story holds on its own just fine. Kat is such a robust character that I was able to get a sense of her even though I barely knew her background.

Death in Kew Gardens reminded me of both Downton Abbey and Grand Hotel, with a touch of Agatha Christie. I will definitely be reading the forerunners in this series and anxiously await for book number four.

I would like to thank Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: e-ARC
Published: Expected publication June 4th, 2019 by Berkley
ASIN: B07H73KSQT
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction

Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders # 1) by Robin Hobb

618211Wizardwood, a sentient wood. The most precious commodity in the world. Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds. But how can one trade with the Rain Wilders, when only a liveship fashioned from wizardwood can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River? Rare and valuable a liveship will quicken only when three members, from successive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening as Althea Vestrit’s father is carried on deck in his death-throes. Althea waits for the ship that she loves more than anything else in the world to awaken. Only to discover that the Vivacia has been signed away in her father’s will to her brutal brother-in-law, Kyle Haven…Others plot to win or steal a liveship. The Paragon, known by many as the Pariah, went mad, turned turtle, and drowned his crew. Now he lies blind, lonely, and broken on a deserted beach. But greedy men have designs to restore him, to sail the waters of the Rain Wild River once more.


Ship of Magic is book one in The Liveship Traders series. It tells the story of the Vestrit family of traders from Bingtown. The story starts with the death of the patriarch Ephron Vestrit who dies on the Vivacia. The Vivacia is the family ship and a liveship, a magical ship made of Wizardwood (a substance that gives the ship its magical properties). When Ephron dies on board of the Vivacia, it allows the vessel to “quicken,” meaning the ship comes to life and becomes a sentient being. Althea is Ephron’s youngest daughter and the one who should have inherited the ship, but much to her surprise Ephron gives the ship to his older daughter Keffria who subsequently gives it to her husband, Kyle. Althea and Kyle cannot stand each other, and since the Vivacia needs a blood relative of the Vestrits to operate, Kyle orders his son Wintrow, who wanted to become a priest, to come on board of the ship making the boy’s life miserable. Parallel to this story, we meet Kennit, an ambitious pirate who dreams of one day uniting all pirate townships and conquering all pirate ships including the Vivacia.

If the 80s American soap-opera Dynasty had a nautical version, it would be called Ship of Magic. The amount of family drama in this book is unlike anything I have read in a long time. The first fifty percent of the book is just bickering between all members of the Vestrit family, especially between Althea and Kyle.

The pace of the book is irritatingly languid. To quote Stephen King, ” When a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring’, the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with the powers of description and lost sight of his priority…” Indeed the majority of the book is descriptions of people and places to the point you wonder if anything is ever going to happen in this novel, or if this story even has a plot. Ship of Magic does have a plot, and things do eventually start happening but much later in the book, and by then I had read several other novels in between.

At a hefty eight hundred and eight pages, at the end of this book, you feel like you have been reading about Kyle, Althea, Wintrow, Vivacia, and trade families for years. That might have been Hobb’s idea all along since this is book one in the series and the introduction to all the characters and this magical, nautical world. I was happy to have stuck with it, and I actually loved the story all things concerned. However, if you enjoy your fantasy books a little faster paced, Ship of Magic might not be for you.


Format: Hardcover, 880 pages
Published: February 2nd, 1999 by Spectra (first published March 1998)
ISBN:0553575635
Source: Library loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fantasy

Emily, Gone by Bette Lee Crosby

42774228When a music festival rolls through the sleepy town of Hesterville, Georgia, the Dixon family’s lives are forever changed. On the final night, a storm muffles the sound of the blaring music, and Rachel tucks her baby into bed before falling into a deep sleep. So deep, she doesn’t hear the kitchen door opening. When she and her husband wake up in the morning, the crib is empty. Emily is gone. Vicki Robart is one of the thousands at the festival, but she’s not feeling the music. She’s feeling the emptiness over the loss of her own baby several months before. When she leaves the festival and is faced with an opportunity to fill that void, she is driven to an act of desperation that will forever bind the lives of three women. When the truth of what actually happened that fateful night is finally exposed, shattering the lives they’ve built, will they be able to pick up the pieces to put their families back together again?


The book starts forty-seven years ago in the small, fictional town of Hesterville, GA, where a music festival akin to Woodstock is about to take place at Harold Baker’s farm. The townspeople, apprehensive about the festival and the type of audience it will attract, try to prevent the festival from happening to no avail.

The Dixons live close to the farm where the festival is taking place. Rachel, George and poor baby Emily have endured several nights of loud music and very little sleep. On the last day of the festival, when the music seemed to be dying out, Rachel tucked in baby Emily in her crib and went to bed exhausted. Unbeknownst to Rachel and George, their paths were about to cross with hippies Vicki and boyfriend Russ Murphy who were driving back from the festival stoned and starved.

Vicki asks Murph to stop to get her something to eat, but when he fails to find a place that’s open late at night, Vicki convinces him to pull over by a house where she can trespass and get something to eat. Although Murphy is initially not on board with the idea, he agrees to it as long as Vicki can go in and out of the house without raising anyone’s attention. When Vicki enters the Dixon family’s home, she finds a lot more than food, and a crime of opportunity presents itself in a way that will change the course of the Dixon’s and Vicki’s life forever.

I loved this book. As much as I hated Vicki, I could also understand her pain and where she was coming from as a woman and a mother. Things are never as simple as they seem and this book will have you question your preconceived notions on this topic.

This book is a page-turner that had me crying. The theme of this book is every parent’s worst nightmare, and Crosby did a fantastic job of telling such a compelling story with love and compassion. A heart-wrenching, beautiful story about forgiveness and ultimately love.

Emily, Gone is scheduled to be published on April 30th, 2019. I want to thank the author for providing me a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.


Format: Paperback, 398 pages
Published: expected to be published April 30th, 2019 by Lake Union Publishing
ISBN:1542044928
Source: ARC provided by the Author
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

About The Author

Bette Lee Crosby

Bette Lee Crosby is the USA Today bestselling author of twenty novels, including The Twelfth Child and the Wyattsville series. She has been the recipient of the Reader’s Favorite Gold Medal, Reviewer’s Choice Award, FPA President’s Book Award, and International Book Award, among many others. Her 2016 novel, Baby Girl, was named Best Chick Lit of the Year by the Huffington Post. She laughingly admits to being a night owl and a workaholic, claiming that her guilty pleasure is late-night chats with fans and friends on Facebook and Goodreads. The Summer of New Beginnings, published by Lake Union, Took First Place in the Royal Palm Literary Award for Women’s Fiction and was a runner-up for book of the year. The sequel, A Year of Extraordinary Moments, is now available.

Website | Twitter |Facebook|Amazon

Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce

37912970Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise – she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle. But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything….


Less than a perfect wife and mother, Alison is an attorney with a drinking problem who is having an affair with a co-worker, and she just landed her first murder case. She is married to Carl, a struggling therapist who is also a stay-at-home-dad and mother to five-year-old Matilda (Tilly). Alison’s life is spiraling down to a complete disaster, as her marriage to Carl is falling apart she struggles with her destructive drinking and sordid affair with Patrick. Faced with her first murder case to defend, will there be hopes for Alison to regenerate, save her marriage, and become the loving, present, mother her daughter Tilly deserves?

This is an exciting, edge-of-your-seat, can’t-put-it-down sort of thriller. Tyce gets you hooked from the prologue. There are no slow, boring parts. You are taken down the same sordid and destructive path that Alison takes. Blood Orange is the sort of novel where you can’t tell the bad guys from the good guys and nothing; absolutely nothing is what it seems. My only gripe with this novel is that half-way through the book I felt the plot reminded me of some elements of another great British novel, B.A. Paris’s The Breakdown. I don’t want to reveal too much in fear that I might spoil the fun. Blood Orange is Harriet Tyce’s debut novel.


Format: Hardcover, 340 pages
Published: February 21st, 2019 by Wildfire (first published January 10th, 2019
ISBN:1472252756
Source: Library loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Thriller

COVER REVEAL: Sketch by Didi Oviatt

Sketch cover

Today’s cover reveal is for the beautiful cover for Sketch by Didi Oviatt.

Sketch

Expected Publication Date: June 2019

Genre: YA Thriller/ Psychological Thriller

Publisher: Creativia

When the body of the local girl, Misty Crawl, is found dismembered in an underground bunker, the town is thrown into a whirlwind of panic and speculation. Times aren’t exactly smooth sailing with a depression in full swing. The spaced out community of farmers pull together as one, trying to uncover the guilty party.

Thrown smack in the middle of such chaos, is a group of teens. They’re known troublemakers but have good hearts. Although they’re innocent, the local law enforcers believe otherwise, and the true killer is lurking far too close for comfort. Will the four be able to uncover the truth before one of them pays the price for Misty’s death? Or will the brutal killer strike again, attacking the heart of the four?

*Sketch is a young adult psychological thriller. It’s a quick easy read, appropriate and gripping for mid-teens and up, with no sexual content and some bloody gore. Parent’s be advised.

Excerpt

As soon as Steven’s dad, Robert Smith, pulls down the road, they look mischievously at one another and then take off in a sprint down the steps into his basement. Steven’s always wanted to know what’s locked away down here. His father told him years ago that it was just a room full of old newspapers. But, Steven’s always known there has to be more to this dingy looking door all locked away. It doesn’t take Chloe long to pick the lock. She’s getting better and faster at it with every lock she opens. The door creaks as it swings open, and there it is.

“Holy shit,” gasps John.

“This is the best day of my life,” says Michael.

“Look at the dust on all this stuff. I’ll bet this door hasn’t been open in years! No one will even notice if we take it!” adds Chloe.

Steven whispers in fear, “I don’t know guys, my dad will kill me if he finds out.”

“No he won’t, Red, I can take him,” jokes Michael.

Staring back at them from the wall to wall metal storage shelves are two small crossbows and an open chest of arrows. Along with old war paint, hatchets, a couple machetes, rope, and one box of newspapers setting on the floor.

“What the hell was my dad doing with this stuff?” Steven asks, more to himself than the others.

Steven’s dad isn’t an adventuress man, and aside from the yearly deer and occasional bear he shoots, he doesn’t even like to get out and do much.

“The bears are getting out of control around here,” and, “we gotta’ have meat to survive,” is his logic for hunting.

He doesn’t enjoy hunting as a sport like the majority of other men and even women in town. It’s more of a chore for him. Which is only one step away from insanity, in Steven’s point of view. Hunting is Steven’s favorite thing to do with his dad, aside from throwing a football.

“Who cares why he has this stuff!?” John says, always the planner of the group. “Let’s just take it now and hurry, in case he forgot something and has to come back home. We don’t want to get caught carrying it all out of your house.”

They grab as much as they can lift and head straight for the woods. Distracted by all the cool things, they don’t even bother to glance at the newspapers in the box on the floor.

Pre-Order your Copy Today!

About the Author

Didi's Pic

Didi Oviatt is an intuitive soul. She’s a wife and mother first, with one son and one daughter. Her thirst to write was developed at an early age, and she never looked back. After digging down deep and getting in touch with her literary self, she’s writing mystery/thrillers like Sketch, Search For Maylee, Aggravated Momentum, Justice for Belle, and New Age Lamians. Along with a six-piece short story collection called the Time Wasters. She’s also collaborated with Kim Knight in an ongoing interactive short story anthology The Suspenseful Collection. When Didi doesn’t have her nose buried in a book, she can be found enjoying a laid back outdoorsy life. Time spent sleeping under the stars, hiking, fishing, and ATVing the back roads of beautiful mountain trails, sun-bathing in the desert heat, along with watching the relaxing dance of a campfire plays an important part of her day-to-day lifestyle.

Didi can be found on her Website/Blog, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and most importantly AMAZON!

 

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

82192Fifth century Britain is a country of chaos and division after the Roman withdrawal. This is the world of young Merlin, the illegitimate child of a South Wales princess who will not reveal to her son his father’s true identity. Yet Merlin is an extraordinary child, aware at the earliest age that he possesses a great natural gift – the Sight. Against a background of invasion and imprisonment, wars and conquest, Merlin emerges into manhood and accepts his dramatic role in the New Beginning – the coming of King Arthur.


The Crystal Cave is book one in the Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart. Written in 1970, this is a book about Merlin. The famous wizard who played a crucial role in the birth and legend of King Arthur. I have been a fan of Arthurian stories for quite some time, and I was surprised that it took me so many years to read this book.

The book starts in Wales with Merlin still a child and the illegitimate son of a Welsh princess who refuses to name his father. Merlin grows up being ostracized for being a bastard, for having dark features (dark eyes and dark hair), and precognition abilities. All of these characteristics fed the myth that Merlin was the son of a demon. A claim that Stewart addresses later in the book.

The structure of the novel follows a first-person narrative told by Merlin and covers Merlin’s life from age six to when he becomes a young man. The book is divided into five parts. A prologue, part one (The Dove), which covers Merlin’s childhood, part two (The Falcon), a description of Merlin’s escape from his family, and his introduction to his magical studies by the hermit Galapas. Part three (The Red Dragon) relates to his time working with the High King Ambrosius and his rebuilding of Stonehenge. Part four (The Coming of The Bear) is the final part that relates to Merlin’s helping Uther Pendragon to seduce Ygraine, leading to the birth of King Arthur.

I truly enjoyed this novel and Stewart’s take on Merlin’s life. I look forward to reading more books in this series.

As to how this will be, it is with God. I can only tell you what I know. What powers is in me now is from him, and we are in his hands to make or to destroy. But I can tell you this also, Ygraine, that I have seen a bright fire burning, and in it a crown, and a sword standing in an altar like a cross.


Format: Hardcover, 527 pages
Published: June 1970 by William Morrow & Company Inc. (NY) (first published January 1st, 1970)
ISBN:0688013988
Source: Library loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fantasy