Picking up right after The Crystal Cave left off, this book follows Merlin from the day Arthur was conceived to the day he became high king of Britain. Although Merlin helped Uther Pendragon to marry Ygraine, he is currently out of favor with the king. Yet when Uther needs advice about what to do with his unborn child, Merlin is still the first person he consults. If the child is a boy, Uther must recognize him as the king’s son, just in case he is unable to produce a legitimate heir. At the same time, however, he must keep the boy far away from his court, both to protect him and to get him out of the way in case there should be another son with a better claim to the throne. Merlin suggests sending the child to one of Uther’s loyal knights, where he will be raised as a foster child ignorant of his true parentage. Meanwhile, Merlin becomes Arthur’s friend and protector, teaching him all he needs to know in order eventually to take his rightful place as the king’s heir.
I wasn’t terribly impressed with the first book in this series, The Crystal Cave, but I actually liked this book more. It starts off slowly, but once Arthur is born, the book picks up and gets significantly more interesting. Unsurprisingly, I enjoyed the political machinations aspect of the book more than the mystical aspect; I found Merlin’s visions and prophecies a little boring! I did like watching the relationship between Merlin and Arthur unfold, though, and I look forward to seeing how it continues in the next book. Overall, I’m glad I decided not to give up after The Crystal Cave, and I’m a little more excited about The Last Enchantment than I was before.