A mannered lecture of a novel borrowing from—and liberally interpreting—the Arthurian Cycle.
Readers of Hume’s previous books (Battle of Kings, 2013, etc.) have met Myrddion Merlinus, aka Merlin, who has made a name for himself throughout Cymru by thwarting the designs of the very bad High King named Vortigern and avoiding the eager blades of the very bad Saxons. So what’s an aspiring sorcerer to do? Myrddion betakes himself, Bilbo Baggins–like, out of the Shire (beg pardon, Segontium) and thence to Dubris and thence to the wine-dark Middle Sea, Cymru being an inhospitable place: “This wind would freeze off a witch’s tits,” saith one Dark Ages dweeb, in the first of many hoary clichés that the reader will meet on this long road. If things are busily mayhem-beset in Romano-Celtic Britain, off in the Roman lands proper they are more so, and Myrddion and company land themselves right in the middle of a smack down with none other than Attila the Hun. Saith a helpful Roman, “[t]he legionaries, together with Merovech and Childeric, will nullify Attila’s force on the center of the plain while Thorismund and King Theodoric control the high ground and engage the Hun forces.” Ha, Visigoths! If the reader at this point feels like taking notes on a swarming cast of characters, it will take his (or perhaps her) mind off the studied lack of meaningful action, compounded by the usual tritenesses (“He was a little frightened by how close death had come to him”) and anachronisms (“A Roman general called Flavius Aetius has pissed them off by returning their gift to its original donor”).
Dry, drab and drowsy. T.H. White it ain’t.