I read all night long with this book. I loved it. If you enjoy Marion Zimmer Bradley's books then you'll enjoy this.
Niviene, daughter of the Lady of the Lake, sister to the faerie knight who would come to be known as Lancelot, and student of Merlin, finds her destiny in the court of the legendary Arthur. The author of A Woman's Place (1980) undertakes a lyrical retelling of the Arthurian cycle from the point of view of the faerie folk. Crompton's flowing prose creates an atmosphere in which the familiar tale becomes fresh again. An excellent addition to most fantasy and general fiction collections.
I don't get offended by books often: everything is good in my opinion as long as it's written well and doesn't sound like an agenda that is out of place within the fictional world. MERLIN'S HARP, however, is a mess of a novel, poorly organized and weakly characterized--unfortunate, because the writing is beautiful and the story held such promise.
The story of MERLIN'S HARP is exceedingly difficult to follow. It is almost impossible to tell without dedicating 110% of your brainpower to the task whether Nivienne is narrating something that's occurring in the present or something that happened in her past--and if it is the latter, which part of her past it occurred, as, yes, she somehow attempts to provide us with multiple flashbacks at once. And it's less than lack of chronology throughout the story as it is the fact that the flashbacks (or whatever we should call them) provide us with hardly any cohesive information about either the characters or the world in which the story is set.
Crompton's fey are fairly dissimilar to humans: they're heartless, free-spirited sexual beings. They would've provided an interesting contrast to human characteristics, had their lustful behavior been better developed. I have nothing against any kind of sex in fiction, but when characters are objectifying and rubbing up on one another left and right without first having been developed into characters whose lustful actions are justified, then I DO have a problem with that. MERLIN'S HARP is a very sensual read, but my difficulty in connecting to any of the characters, of understanding their motivations, makes it an awkward read at best.
Overall, I'm afraid MERLIN'S HARP is yet another example of a book that is being marketed to the wrong genre. Readers of adult fantasy may be better suited to appreciate its slow story, meandering plot, and sensual writing. YA fantasy fans, however, may find this book difficult to get through.
Reviewed by Jennifer Rummel for TeensReadToo.com
Nivienne never imagined she'd live in the human world. When Merlin comes to Avalon bringing word of a Saxon invasion and threat of peace to their land, she agrees to journey into the human world. After all, with her child gone missing and her heart torn away from her body, she has nothing left in either world.
Once at King Arthur's court, she recognizes the Queen as the woman who became lost and wondered into Avalon one day. Her brother, Lugh, led the Queen away from the island, never to return. Everyone in the human world calls him Lancelot. She recognizes the King as the father of her lost child. She never saw him again after their one night together.
In this new world, she helps Merlin. However, after many years, they recognize two new threats to the kingdom - the love affair between Lancelot and Gwenevere. Belong long, they realize something must be done, but the second threat lingers in the air, waiting, watching for the lovers to destroy themselves and, in turn, the kingdom. Mordred makes his interest in the lovers known. Will he start a revolution that no one can stop?
MERLIN'S HARP recounts the legend of King Arthur from the Fey Nivienne's perspective in a beautifully poetic voice.
I have had this book to read for some time. I bought it for the Kindle when I first got my Kindle (years ago) and just finally got around to reading it. Some of the concepts in this book are interesting but overall it is poorly written and hard to follow.
Niviene has grown up on the island of Avalon; the Lady is her mother and she doesn't know her father. Her youth is highlighted by visits from Merlin, a half fey sorcerer. As Niviene herself grows in power she learns more and more about the mastery of her magic. Then one day Merlin requests her assistance in dealing with King Arthur; Merlin is desperate to save the peace that is slowly unraveling.
This is a retelling of the tale of King Arthur but from the fey perspective and featuring fey characters. Some of the writing in this book is beautiful but it's very hard to follow. The author jumps back and forth between Niviene's past and present kind of willy nilly. It's very hard to figure out if you are reading about what is happening now, what happened when Niviene was little, and what had happened in the near past.
I like that Crompton did this King Author retelling with a heavy emphasis on the Fey. I also enjoyed how Merlin and Niviene are a bit high-handed and super powerful but also have weaknesses and admit that they have made mistakes in their lives.
Unfortunately the poor layout of the plot and the jumping around in time made this a struggle to get through and really take away from what could have been an amazing King Arthur retelling.
Overall I won't be reading anymore of this series and wouldn't really recommend it. The plot and way it is written is just too convoluted and confusing. I would recommend checking out Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeves for a better King Arthur tale retelling.