Originally published on my blog here in December 2001.This novel, the first of a projected trilogy which hasn t yet appeared and probably never will , made quite a stir among myliterary friends when I was a student As Arthurian fantasy goes, it is unique in several ways, and, while tedious in places, it is generally engrossing.The title leads the reader to expect a Sword in the Stone scenario, with Merlin tutoring the boy Arthur, but in fact Tolstoy has completely separated the two chara Originally published on my blog here in December 2001.This novel, the first of a projected trilogy which hasn t yet appeared and probably never will , made quite a stir among myliterary friends when I was a student As Arthurian fantasy goes, it is unique in several ways, and, while tedious in places, it is generally engrossing.The title leads the reader to expect a Sword in the Stone scenario, with Merlin tutoring the boy Arthur, but in fact Tolstoy has completely separated the two characters, making the king precede the wizard by about fifty years The king of the title is not Arthur, but an even later ruler who, at the beginning of the novel, goes to Merlin s grave to consult with the ghost of the enchanter.The Coming of the King is one of the most difficult novels about the Celtic Dark Ages to read, making almost no concession to the modern reader Names and, frequently, concepts such as fate are given only in Celtic forms, and then not even in the ones most likely to be familiar to readers There is a pronunciation guide, but no glossary Forms of Celtic literature are imitated in ways which are sometimes disconcerting or off putting it certainly helps if you have read, say, the Mabinogion In one way, this is a virtue it makes the novel atmospherically Celtic but The Coming of the King is not an easy read Traditional tales from other cultures are also worked in, including Beowulf and a touch of the Kalevala these borrowings areinteresting to catalogue than to read The best sections of this novel are the least portentous the amusing story of Merlin as a precocious baby and the exciting siege of Deinerth This is where Tolstoy forgets that he is writing mythology and gets carried along by his own story To try too hard to produce mythology is a common fault in modern fantasy authors, one which is an annoying legacy of Tolkien s influence Even if there is something in the reader which is stirred by the epic ideas, this is stifled when these are expressed in turgid prose Tolstoy went on to become involved in one of the bigger libel cases of the 1990s, when he was sued after suggesting that British officers handed over Yugoslav resistance fighters to Tito after the end of the war knowing that they would be massacred The second and third books of this trilogy seem to have been forgotten in the stress of the massive damages awarded against Tolstoy a pity The Coming of the King, as a result, stands as a unique and different Arthurian fantasy, and this alone is a considerable achievement This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here A very weird book I don t think it would appeal to all that many people, as it is very dense and confusing The parts I liked were really only appealing because they were all obscure references that only someone, like me, who has read a considerable amount of medieval literature is likely to understand There is a scene quoting the Saga of Grettir the Strong almost word for word, for example It draws from numerous, disparate medieval sources SPOILERS are recommended, because you are going to A very weird book I don t think it would appeal to all that many people, as it is very dense and confusing The parts I liked were really only appealing because they were all obscure references that only someone, like me, who has read a considerable amount of medieval literature is likely to understand There is a scene quoting the Saga of Grettir the Strong almost word for word, for example It draws from numerous, disparate medieval sources SPOILERS are recommended, because you are going to need them if approaching this book with no medieval background the tale follows young Merlin as he gains the mystical powers necessary to serve as advisor to the high King, who is Maelgun, not Arthur Merlin is the son of a virgin and incubus pagan God and a child of prophesy After baptism, he is thrown into the sea, so he learns how to turn into a fish and does that for many years Then, eventually, he is caught in the weir of Gwyddno Garanhir a weir is a wooden fishing barricade in an estuary, btw , and rescued by Gwyddno s son Prince Elfin At Gwyddno s court, the child Merlin is a curiosity to most, and a colleague to the bard Taliesin, who is another vessel of the Gods Eventually, Merlin proves his use by helping Elfin get out of an embarrassing political blunder with neighboring Prince Rhud Thus, when the princes are called to muster for campaigns against the Saxons with King Maelgun, both Merlin and Taliesin go along for the ride.On the way to Gwynedd, Merlin has an out of body experience in which he and Taliesin journey into the wilderness and play Gwyddbwll aka the historical game Tafl in Tolstoy s interpretation , the game of Fate, determining in advance the outcome of the campaign it doesn t look good Taliesin s shade vanishes, leaving Merlin alone on the mountain, only to be rescued by a great falcon, which also happens to steal Merlin s eye without permission in order to drop it in the well of wisdom and earn Merlin the Second Sight, even greater than what he was born with.Upon reaching Gwynedd, Merlin meets an old Roman centurion V something I don t have the book on me They initially hit it off well, and V tells Merlin his life story for a very long time, stopping only when Merlin is suddenly gripped by the Sight and the other world Since Merlin is mysteriously comatose, V naturally wanders off I said it was weird Merlin then goes on a psychological journey into the layers of his own mind and the underworld, finally battling the grotesque ruler of the dead He is aided back to the real world by his mysterious love interest star maiden Anyhow, the upshot is that now Merlin can not only See events, he can influence them too.The army sets out to head off the Saxons, but the Saxons also send for reinforcements from the continent, including the legendary Beowulf The Saxons literally have Odin on their side firing up the army Meanwhile, Merlin decides to do some reconaissance, so he travels into enemy territory as a fish He does discover what is happening turns out the Saxons were ready for them , and he has another mystical experience to try to change the fate he and Taliesin foresaw He ends up very weak and half mad by the time he makes it back to warn the king Unfortunately, the king is also ailing, and Merlin s information rapidly becomes useless Merlin and Maelgun and V must whether a siege in an old decrepit fort without hope of relief Fortunately, Elfin actually manages to pull a fast one and get put to fetch reinforcements The siege is lifted, and Merlin battles Odin himself to ensure victory The medieval French interpreters of the Matter of Britain drew heavily upon the Celtic myths and folktales of Brittany and Great Britain when they wrote their own chivalric stories The heroes of those earlier tales were seen by the French as uncouth and unchristian and they generally cast the native heroes as boorish and unmannered when compared with the new cultured French heroes.Tolstoy has taken back the original traditions and shows these characters, warts and all, as people set within th The medieval French interpreters of the Matter of Britain drew heavily upon the Celtic myths and folktales of Brittany and Great Britain when they wrote their own chivalric stories The heroes of those earlier tales were seen by the French as uncouth and unchristian and they generally cast the native heroes as boorish and unmannered when compared with the new cultured French heroes.Tolstoy has taken back the original traditions and shows these characters, warts and all, as people set within their own culture Based on Welsh and Germanic mythology, the manners and s might not be what we have come to expect from Arthurian heroes, but the combination of earthy humour and high mysticism strikes a chord of realism, despite the fantasy setting The kings and warriors aren t paragons of chivalric virtue, but then they pre date the chivalric ideal and demand to be treated on their own terms.It s such a shame that Tolstoy s legal difficulties at the time of the publication of this first volume in an intended trilogy prevented him from continuing the series This book introduces the unfortunate phrase trouserful of wantonness in perhaps one of the worst descriptive paragraphs I ve ever read The entire book is yetof the same If English was the author s second language I might understand oh wait, he s from England There is no excuse If you do read this book and come across the paragraph I mentioned, read it aloud to your best friend See if they don t smack you. Nikolai Tolstoy draws from the Mabinogion, Geoffrey of Monmouth s Vita Merlini, Beowulf, and the Norse Eddas to tell a story of post Arthurian Britain through the eye of Merlin This Merlin isn t the advisor of Arthur we ve come to expect from works like The Once and Future King, but rather a shaman living nearly a century after Arthur s defeat at Camlan The book runs the gamut from action, to ribald humor, to surreal visions I especially loved the fact that one of Merlin s teachers is the Sal Nikolai Tolstoy draws from the Mabinogion, Geoffrey of Monmouth s Vita Merlini, Beowulf, and the Norse Eddas to tell a story of post Arthurian Britain through the eye of Merlin This Merlin isn t the advisor of Arthur we ve come to expect from works like The Once and Future King, but rather a shaman living nearly a century after Arthur s defeat at Camlan The book runs the gamut from action, to ribald humor, to surreal visions I especially loved the fact that one of Merlin s teachers is the Salmon of Lyn Liw At times this is a dense and challenging read and I m not sure I would have gotten as much out of it if I hadn t read several of the stories of the Mabinogion plus some of the Norse Eddas Still, I found this a compelling look through the eyes of a Celtic shaman and may have to give this another read in the future This version of the traditional Celtic mythology adds a new twist to the Arthurian tales by adding in hints, bits and suggestions from Scandinavian and Russian mythologies as well as the original Celtic tales This combination makes for a unique series of stories that follows the king of the title not the one you think as he begins his quest to achieve power and rule his peoples well In doing so he arrives at Merlin s grave where he speaks to his ghost rather than the man himself This is a h This version of the traditional Celtic mythology adds a new twist to the Arthurian tales by adding in hints, bits and suggestions from Scandinavian and Russian mythologies as well as the original Celtic tales This combination makes for a unique series of stories that follows the king of the title not the one you think as he begins his quest to achieve power and rule his peoples well In doing so he arrives at Merlin s grave where he speaks to his ghost rather than the man himself This is a hard read, especially for those not familiar with the original tales as Tolstoy hasn t altered the style or language to suit today s reader Personally I don t mind this, having read the Mabinogion and other such Celtic tales I m quite familiar with many of the terms used but it would ve been good to have a glossary for those not so familiar with these I did refer back to my Mabinogion on occasion to remind myself of a few I d forgotten Vividly written and enthralling, especially if you can get over the language barrier Excellent vision of the post Arthurian Briton and the way and magic of the druid Myrddin Highly reccomended for those interested in this area of fantasy or historical fiction Explore everything Arthurian and ancient British from druidic shape changing to Roman military science to Celtic lifestyles. The legend of Merlin is one of the greatest and most mysterious of all literature This novel is a reimagining of his life and impact on Celtic Britain, bringing to life the world of the Celts in all its valor and violence, love and lust, poetry and profanity It took me forever it read this freaking book So dense and chewy Oh, its about Merlin not God, deceptive title. This is a masterpiece, Nikolai Tolstoy did a tremendous amount of research to write this, the amount of imagination and detail that went into this book is astounding I really liked Michael s review This is a masterpiece, Nikolai Tolstoy did a tremendous amount of research to write this, the amount of imagination and detail that went into this book is astounding I really liked Michael s review