This second installment of the sequence that began with The Lost Years of Merlin (1996) is as full of action and excitement as its predecessor, but is kinder and gentler in tone; while its origins are epic, it is foremost a tale of the heart. Teenage Merlin remains on the enchanted isle of Fincayra, charged by its inhabitants to traverse the countryside, playing the flowering harp and thereby rejuvenating the land that was scarred in battle during the overthrow of Merlin's father, the evil King Stangmar. Although Merlin is proud to serve, his own desire to be reunited with his mother, Elen, so overwhelms him that he abandons his task and teleports her to his side. No sooner do the pair embrace, however, than Elen is poisoned by a deathshadow, meant for her son by evil Rhita Gawr: Merlin's mother can only be saved if he masters the seven wizard's songs within one lunar month. The quest on which Barron sends his amiable hero is delightfully accessible and appropriate for this audience: In essence, Merlin must rise above his own hubris, and use his heart and mind as an adult. Aiding Merlin in his tasks are the lovely and resourceful Rhia, and a new character, the dour would-be jester Bumbelwy. While plenty of characters from the previous novel appear, as do familiar landmarks, it is Merlin's inner journey that readers will cherish above all: His development is convincing and heartwarming. A rich and resonant read.