Monday, March 15, 2010

Review: Merlin's Harp

Summary: When I was yet a very young woman I threw my heart away. Ever since then I have lived heartless, or almost heartless, the way Humans think all Fey live.

Among the towering trees of magical Avalon, where humans dare not tread, lives Niviene, daughter of the Lady of the Lake. Her people, the Fey, are folk of the wood and avoid the violence and greed of man. But the strife of King Arthur’s realm threatens even the peace of Avalon. And while Merlin the mage has been training Niviene as his apprentice, he now needs her help to thwart the chaos devouring Camelot. Niviene’s special talents must help save a kingdom and discover the treachery of men and the beauty of love… -- Sourcebooks Fire

Another new release from the Sourcebooks Fire imprint is MERLIN'S HARP by Anne Eliot Crompton. I was hesitant to participate in the blog tour for this book because it's not the type of book I usually read. And then when I read some of the less-than-positive reviews from some bloggers that I respect, I was pretty sure that this wasn't going to be a book for me. But I thought I still needed to give it a try, and I ended up being pleasantly surprised by MERLIN'S HARP.

I still think that MERLIN'S HARP is not necessarily a book aimed at me and I didn't love it, but I did appreciate it. In fact, I was really impressed with the author's very unique premise on a traditional story. MERLIN'S HARP is an account of the Arthurian legend from a woman's point of view. And it's not just a normal woman's point of view, it's a fey's. This entire novel was written in first person narrative of Nivienne, a fey who ends up helping Arthur's kingdom during their war with the Saxons.

Much to my dismay, I haven't read much about King Arthur and all his adventures. I did recognize many of the characters' names, but I wish I had known more of the Arthurian legend. (I might have to pick up THE MISTS OF AVALON which I've heard so many wonderful things about.) Had I been more familiar with this story, I think I would have enjoyed this book even more. Having said that, I did appreciate what the author tried to do with this novel -- how she managed to retell the classic story of King Arthur's Court with quite a few twists and turns and even some surprises. I especially liked reading about how the fey world interacted with the human world.

I think MERLIN'S HARP is definitely a cross-over book -- one that both teens and adults will enjoy. At first, I agree that it seemed like a YA novel; however, the more I read and the older Viv got, the more I could see the appeal for adults too. I thought the writing was pretty sophisticated, and I think a knowledge of King Arthur's Court (that many adults will have) would be an added bonus to appreciating this novel. Having said that, I am almost positive that MERLIN'S HARP will not appeal to everyone.

While I did like this book on some levels, I still has some issues with it. I didn't think the characters were very well developed, and I definitely wanted more detail and insight into Viv's character. At times, I felt as if I was getting to understand her; and then something would happen and I would end up getting confused with her actions. It was almost as if her character was inconsistent, but maybe I just don't "get" the fey world.

Another thing that I had a slight issue with was that the book seemed a little choppy. I'm pretty sure that this was the author's intent, but I didn't love that years passed between the chapters without any explanation. In fact, it sometimes took me a few paragraphs to catch on to the story again. Part of my problem could have been that I wasn't that familiar with the background story, but I just wanted more details and transitions. It's entirely possible that the author wanted the reader to have this fuzziness of time since the fey world is so different than the human one, but I admit that it did bother me.

I actually think MERLIN'S HARP would make a very interesting discussion book for teen book clubs and mother-daughter book clubs. There are a great deal of things to discuss from the plot to the characters to the author's writing style. Even if everyone in the group doesn't love the story, the meeting would be extremely interesting to hear others' viewpoints.

Check out the website devoted to MERLIN'S HARP where you can read the first 47 pages of the novel. That's a pretty big head start because the book is only around 250 pages. I definitely think you'll know if this is a book you'd enjoy after reading this Chapter 1 excerpt.

Thanks to Sourcebooks Fire for sending me a review copy of this novel.


Jillian said...

I have an award for you on my blog :)

bermudaonion said...

This does sound like a book teens would enjoy, but I don't think it's for me - I just haven't gotten into the fey world, even though I know it's wildly popular.

S. Krishna said...

I had the same issues with the book. While I appreciated what the author was trying to do, I found it hard to read.

Jenny Girl said...

I'm not sure about the fey thing either, but I like Arthurian re-tellings. Mists of Avalon was excellent and told from the woman's POV. Never saw the movie version but I'v heard it was pretty close to the book.

Beth F said...

I ended up having to skim instead of read. It wasn't a good match for me.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea that it's Arthurian legend through a woman's perspective but I'm not sure if the style fits for me.

BTW, The Mists of Avalon is a wonderful book. Another is The Kingmaking if you're interested in Arthurian legend books.