Hume’s second trilogy picks up where her Merlin series ended.
When last seen in Hume’s book, Merlin, who goes by the name Myrddion, had helped secret the newly born son of the evil Uther Pendragon and his beautiful wife, Ygerne, who was raped and forced to marry the cruel Briton king after he murdered her husband. The child, now known as Artorex, lives with the gentleman farmer Ector and his noble Roman wife, Livinia, at their estate. Every so often, Myrddion and two Celtic kings check on the boy’s progress. As Artorex approaches manhood, the three instruct an old warrior named Targo to educate him in the skills of fighting and horsemanship, while Ector is tasked to see to the boy’s education. Artorex must remain hidden from King Uther, who will kill the child to prevent his succession to the throne. Meanwhile, Artorex’s half sister, Morgan, is keeping Uther alive long enough to destroy almost everything the young Artorex holds dear. Artorex then journeys to see his father and undertakes a suicide mission to prove to the Celtic people that he is the right person to rule them. As in her previous trilogy, the author, an Arthurian academic, adds perceived authenticity to her tales by incorporating true-to-life details surrounding the difficult, hardscrabble lives of those who survived in the late fifth and early sixth centuries. The day-to-day living, from food to attitudes about war, politics and social station, is fascinating, and the author goes into enormous detail to describe life in Arthurian England; but in this first volume, the prose tends to wax a little too flowery on occasion. Even though the writing is less compelling and the story briefly goes off the rails early in the book with a nasty subplot concerning child abuse, the evolving narrative is worth reading.
A diverting read for fans of the Arthurian legends.