THE IRON GRAIL by Robert Holdstock


Vol. II, the Merlin Codex
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Second installment of Holdstock’s latest fantasy venture (Celtika, 2003): an erudite and colorful but less than fully convincing whirl of Greek, Celtic, Norse, and what-all mythologies.

Last time out we met a resurrected Jason, his ship Argo, and some of his shipmates—including a certain Merlin (he’s been walking the Earth for ten thousand years, hoarding his magic in an effort to remain youthful). Jason seeks the two sons whom he thought murdered by his (and Merlin’s) former lover, the witch Medea. In Greek Land he found Thesokorus, who denied him and fought him; now he seeks Kinos, the Little Dreamer, in Alba (Britain). But Medea has hidden Kinos in the Ghostlands, an eerie region containing the Shadows of Heroes and Unborn. When Merlin arrives in Alba, the Fates manifest as a bloody, dreadful apparition; they warn him of multiple menaces: “Three are returning who are a threat to you. A fourth is already here and hiding.” While waiting for High King Urtha to return from Greek Land, where he was severely wounded, Merlin must retrieve Urtha’s sons from Ghostland. Meanwhile, Taurovinda, Urtha’s fortress, has been overrun and occupied by Dead and Unborn warriors from Ghostland. Kymon, Urtha’s young warrior son, urges an immediate and foolhardy assault to retake the fortress; Urtha’s daughter, Munda—she has acquired visionary powers known as the Light of Foresight—sees only bleached bones. And, yes, we've met Arthur, but he doesn’t know who he is since he hasn’t been born yet.

Churning, nightmarish, baffling, rich with mesmerizing detail: amazing but pointless.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-765-30726-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2003


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