The Lost Years of Merlin
T. A. Barron
This series of books depicts a young Merlin, not yet grown into the wise and ancient wizard of Arthurian fame, developing his mind and character in the fantastic Otherworld of Fincayra. This land is characterized by bright colors and a strong sense of life, and includes fantasy creatures of every sort. The books present a typical coming-of-age tale in a different setting. Unfortunately, it isn’t especially original. I noticed distinct and extremely apparent parallels (in plot, characters, and setting) between this and books by Stephen Lawhead, Lloyd Alexander. . . even Star Wars! The books don’t necessarily suffer by comparison, but seeing as they were published after the abovementioned, the rip-offs were at times amusingly obvious. If they weren’t actually imitations, Barron needs therapy for his unintentional telepathy.
With plot, characters, and setting in many ways borrowed from other sources, the only realm which struck me as rather original in a book such as this was that of ideas. Unfortunately, Barron didn’t hold up especially well there. While the books had no blatant morally objectionable material, the worldview wasn’t Christian. A distinct environmentalism pervaded the books; while this doesn’t on its own make a book especially non-Christian, the setting’s vague yet omnipresent semi-spiritualism also made me somewhat uncomfortable. I didn’t find the non-Christian undertones of the books especially harmful, but they may be slightly problematic (especially for the younger readers to whom the books are marketed). Good and evil are definitely different, although not as clearly defined and outlined as they would be in a Christian author’s version of such a story.
The books are, however, quite well-written. The descriptions are especially vivid, which is necessary since the books include many unfamiliar fantastic beings and places. The characterization is also quite good. The pace never lags, and I found the books enjoyable though quick reads.