Title: The Lost Years of Merlin
Author: T.A. Barron
Edition/Pages: Penguin, 1996/288 Pages
Short & Sweet Synopsis: This series depicts the childhood and early life of the famed wizard Merlin.
So, I’m going to presume all of you have heard of Merlin (ya know, that old, British wizard who advised King Arthur?). Well, this series written for young adults takes those old folk tales and turns them on their heads, by showing us a new, young adult version of Merlin.
An Unidentified Child
Not only to us, but to himself as well, it turns out. This is how the story of Merlin begins. We have only ever heard of him as an elderly, if powerful man, but T.A. Barron decided to change that. Thus, the title of the book (and the series): The Lost Years of Merlin. With no previous legends weighing him down, Barron is free to use his wildest imagination to fill in the gaps of young Merlin’s childhood. He starts with a bit of amnesia, and a bedraggled boy washed up on a beach. After some drama which I won’t spoil for you, we are given our first clue as to his identity, and off we go!
A Magical Childhood
But not really. Merlin (although he is not yet known as such) doesn’t fit in with the other children. He lives alone with his mother, a rather mysterious woman, and goes about his daily life without finding anything about himself particularly special. And yet, he soon starts to question this seeming normality, after a number of strange occurrences in his presence. Eventually, through a tragic turn of events, young Merlin finds that he has the abilities for which his adult self will become so famous.
A Boy Alone
After realizing that he is in fact quite different from the other children, Merlin sets off on a journey to find where he truly comes from, and this journey forms the main narrative of the book. He meets all sorts of magical people from magical places, and – as must happen in all such legends – he becomes an important figure in a war of mythical proportions, to be built upon in subsequent books.
Since it does fall into the young adult genre, this book is going to be a quick, light read for most people. However, it does have a solid, substantive story backing it, which makes it enjoyable for children and adult fantasy-lovers alike. In the time since I finished the book, I have read the entire 5-part series, and it is well worth the relatively little time it takes. The first book is excellent, and the series as a whole sucked me in emotionally. In fact, it ended up affecting me more than I thought any young adult series ever would again. I highly recommend this book and this series, both for you and any children in your life (it was my dad that first suggested it to me years ago!).
Some other worthwhile reviews:
The Mad Reviewer: I’ve always been fascinated by the Arthurian legends and in particular with the mysterious sorcerer, Merlin. And this book is what sparked my fascination.
Enlightened Children’s Literature: The stories are filled with countless journeys, friends, enemies, magic and mystery, all taking place on mythical Isle of Fincarya.