Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book One of Merlin’s Decedents: Guardian of the Balance by Irene Radford

Guardian of the Balance
This is the first book in a series of novels focusing on the mythical bloodline of Merlin.  This story is set in the late 5th century and early 6th century.  The protagonist of this first novel is Arylwren, nicknamed Wren,  the daughter of Merlin and the goddess whom he serves. Wren grows up in the shadow of and falls in love with the boy who will one day inherit the title of Pendragon. Meanwhile, to protect her from political and religious intrigues, her father forces Wren into a loveless marriage. Wren has a long and difficult journey through life and pursues a destiny spun for her by the goddess of the land, but whose contributions to Briton behind the scenes make her as important as Arthur himself.  Wren must balance the old with the new and her love with her duty.
This is not the first book Radford has ever written, but it feels like it.  The writing style in the first half of the book is rough, and the story line is choppy.  The second half of the book things begin to move smoother as Radford’s writing improves.  During the first half of the book, Radford throws out details regarding many Celtic rituals and Gods with no real enhancement to the storyline, it seems almost as if she want to show off her knowledge rather than enhance her story.  Thankfully, in the second half of the book the Celtic ritual details do enhance the story line and makes the reading much more enjoyable.  It is the second half of the book that drew me in, and I had trouble putting it down.  Radford kept most of the classic Arthurian legend details but her own spin on them that made the story seem fresh and engaging.
The personalities and reasons behind the actions of well known characters such as Morgaine and Merlin mad the story seem new and sometimes I wished for different outcomes than what I knew must happen.  There are also new players to the legend working in the background that add some depth to the story and provide new antagonists to thwart Arthur, Wren and Merlin, and lead to the conclusion that we all know must happen.  For example Nimue, is corrupted by her greed for power and her laziness to complete a task as instructed, if here flaws did not hinder her so, she could have been a larger threat than she was.  But, if her father Carrdoc had not been such a brutal man, she may have been able to user her power for good, and at first I felt sorry for her, in the end she got what her deeds deserved, but I still felt sympathy for the character, which shows that when Radford choose to focus on the story and the characters she could weave a magical tale.  I love that fact that “Guardian of the Balance” follows Arthur and Wren from childhood to death, and sets up the next book to be about their decedents rather than carrying the story of Arthur and Wren.  I am looking forward to “Guardian of the Truth”

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