We all know the name Merlin. Whether you’ve seen the star-cloaked, long bearded wizard in a Disney movie like the Sword in the Stone or read about him in the tales of Arthur Pendragon and the Knights of the Round Table you have almost definitely come across the powerful, mystical prophet/advisor/druid/wizard/you get the picture in some form or another. And yet T.A. Barron points out a flaw in the vast array of lore surrounding this character- no one mentions his youth.
Oh there are numerous mentions of how he was born of a human mother and non-human father (probably a demon). But what happened to him to transform him from half-mortal infant to legend? How did his powers develop?
T.A. Barron not only poses the question, he also answers it. The Lost Years of Merlin tells the story of the boy Merlin. How did he get his unusual name? What happened in his youth to prompt the growth of his beard, a thing so unique that we now associate it with any wizard? Why did he choose a cloak of stars? And who were his parents? Did he have any siblings? How did he come to be able to see what others cannot, to foretell the future?
These books are immensely creative. They answer questions you never thought to ask. And because the reader knows who the boy they are reading about becomes, little things, such as the stories his mother tells him about the constellations and the comfort he finds in the sky when she is no longer there gain new meaning.
The writing style is clever and engaging, absolutely positively capturing the hilarious dialect of Shim the honey-loving giant, the energy of the leaf-clothed Rhia, and the insecurities of the wizard-to-be.
Most wondrous of all, the imagery throughout the story paints a picture of Fincayra- an “in between place.” A place neither wholly of heaven, nor wholly of Earth, where spirits walk, trees talk, and a young boy discovers both his past and his future.