This completion of the Merlin trilogy begun with The Crystal Cave (1970) and The Hollow Hills (1973) takes Arthur from his coronation to the height of his reign, and the enchanter himself from the first decline of his powers to his final retreat beneath Bryn Myrddin. Stewart goes conscientiously through the necessary agenda: the Saxons are driven back to East Anglia; Arthur's great palace is built at ""Caer Camel""; Merlin meets his Nimuâ€°; the treacheries of Morgan and Morgause are met and parried. As before, she deals out a mild blend of historical conjecture and materials from the Mabinogion and the early chroniclers. The formula is bound to please Stewart fans, but one can't help feeling that the guts of the story are missing when Merlin's imprisonment by Nimuâ€° is rationalized as a cave burial based on mistaken medical diagnosis, Arthur's murderous attempt to forestall the career of Mordred is attributed to King Lot, and the love of ""Bedwyr"" (playing the role attributed in later versions to Lancelot) and Guinevere is apparently sublimated to a higher good. Amid these tidyings-up, Merlin's gift of ""the Sight"" seems about as magical as a bugging camera. Perhaps Stewart is simply too likable a writer to bring out the harsher glories of the legend itself; perhaps no attempt to reconstruct the historical probabilities of Arthur's reign is ever going to make a satisfactory novel. But Stewart does as well as anyone--in the highly readable style that has made her the beloved nanny of Arthurian literature.