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The Last Enchantment summary

Last Enchantment image

Book III of the Merlin Trilogy

Merlin, whom men call "enchanter," is the narrator of this magnificent and haunting novel of Dark Age Britain, which begins with Arthur now King by right, having drawn the sword Caliburn from the stone. He instantly plunges into fierce warfare against the Saxon enemy, fighting to achieve the "small miracle" of unity and independence that Britain alone attained among the dependencies of a crumbling Roman Empire.

But Merlin's story focuses on a different kind of warfare against more subtle and dangerous enemies. Of these the chief is Morgause, rose-gold witch and half-sister to Arthur, whom she snared incestuously to her bed, an act resulting in the birth of a son, Mordred, who will be the most dangerous of all. In fact, the book begins with the desperate and bloody attempt to find and murder this child. It fails, and one by one Merlin's other prophecies are realized: the passion and grief of Arthur's marriages; his betrayal by friends and kinfolk; Merlin's overpowering but short-lived love.

The account of Merlin's own enchanting is not, however, a tragic one. In the dark ebb-tide of his gift he finds that he is not totally deserted by the god who bestowed it. Struggling for resignation, he finds a fulfillment that even he had never dreamed of. His power and bright vision will be there at the King's service as long as Arthur lives, and, as he believes, long after.

The Last Enchantment is a richly woven tapestry peopled by princes and soldiers, grave-robbers and goldsmiths, innkeepers and peasants and witches, in a finely described landscape where each forest, lake and hill is charged, not only with the natural life of the countryside, but with the twilight spirits of older mythologies--multiple threads merging into the bright promise of the future, and linked through Merlin in the archetypal themes of a fast, exciting and powerful story. A magnificent novel to put beside Mary Stewart's best-selling The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills.

—jacket, William Morrow edition, 1979