Monday, August 25, 2014

CSFF Blog Tour: Merlin's Nightmare

Merlin's NightmareMerlin's Nightmare is the third installment in Robert Treskillard's Merlin Spiral series. (Click here to read my commentary on the other books in the series.) I've enjoyed these novels, as much for the story as for the atmosphere and setting. I'm no expert on Britain between the Romans and the Anglo-Saxons, but Treskillard appears to have done some homework and he provides enough physical details to give us a sense of a strange and different place without overwhelming us. Merlin is Tas and not father to his children. They use Roman coins. They live in roundhouses called crennigs.

Merlin's Nightmare takes place eighteen years after the events in Merlin's Shadow. Merlin has found a relatively safe place in a secluded valley in the northern province of Rheged to raise Arthur and begin a family of his own with Natalenya. Merlin has managed to conceal Arthur's identity, even from Arthur, as the boy trains to be a warrior and grows to manhood. Arthur assumes that Merlin and Natalenya are his parents. Only a few select residents of Dinas Crag know the truth. Merlin has inherited the position of chief bard from Colvarth and is training his son Taliesin to be a bard. But the Picti—the feared and hated slavers—are not far to the north and Merlin cannot hide from the wolves of his nightmares forever. At some point, Arthur must leave home to claim the High Kingship that belongs to him, but Merlin is reluctant.

Morgana, Merlin's sister and nemisis, has not been idle during these years. She now has a son, Mordred, and enlists the aid of Loth and Morganthu in her quest to destroy Merlin and establish anew a kingdom of the druidow. She has the orb and fang she took from the stone and her powers of sorcery have grown. She has gathered an army of half-wolf men led by a werewolf. Morgana follows the Voice. Merlin follows the Christian God. The Saxenow are eating away at Britain's territory from the south. Rash and impetuous, Arthur and two of his friends take off for the south, thinking that the warriors at Dinas Crag are preparing to join a muster to fight the Saxenow. Arthur's mistake sets in motion a chain of events that will alter the fate of Britain.

When I imagine King Arthur, I usually think of an old man, long established on the throne, presiding over his knights. With all the stories of the round table, it's easy to forget that Arthur was once a young man who attained his position through strife and struggle. Treskillard gives us that young Arthur and imprints his own take on the legends.

Treskillard's story, like many stories, works on oppositions: the bold Arthur versus the cautious Merlin; Merlin's sister Morgana versus Arthur's sister Myrgwen; the Voice of the druidow versus Christianity. Treskillard's characters fight against overwhelming odds and he pushes them to the brink of destruction over and over again. If there is something I don't like about the series, it's the constant beat of doom. Just when you think a situation cannot get any worse and something good must happen on the next page, it gets worse. What saves the story from being a series of near disasters matched with near miraculous escapes, is Merlin's character. Sometimes strong, sometimes weak, sometimes confident, sometimes uncertain, Merlin struggles against his fears to do what is right. He even contemplates redeeming his sister, Morgana.
But could [Merlin] kill his own sister? She who had shared his porridge bowl? His childhood home? The very blood in his veins? Or was there a way to rescue her, to pull her away from the Voice's talons? He didn't know. And this uncertainty rusted through the armor of his bravado, letting the black cockroaches of fear crawl in so that he fairly shook and scratched to get rid of them.

As the journey wore on he stopped eating his share of the rations. He stopped shaving. He stopped washing his face and hands. And mostly, he just stopped talking. At night he would rub ashes on his skin to kill the fear. To confess his sins and lack of faith.
Merlin is hard on himself and exasperating when we see him faltering. He's well-aware of his failings. He's set a standard for himself that no one could live up to, but we respect him all the more for trying.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

To learn more about Robert Treskillard and his writing, check out his website at:

See what other CSFF bloggers are saying:
Beckie Burnham
Vicky DealSharingAunt
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rebekah Gyger
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Emileigh Latham
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam Neal
Joan Nienhuis
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Robert Treskillard
Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams


  1. Enjoyed your commentary on this book, esp. reminding us that Merlin kept the secret of Arthur's heritage from Arthur himself. It is not unlike keeping the truth of adoption from a child adopted at a young age. When the child finds out, they often experience betrayal and do (or threaten to do) impulsive things -- which was the case for young Arthur.

    Good commentary, Jeff!

    1. I like your post, too, Jeff. I react the same way as you when there's one disaster after another. It's very cinematic, in the sense that movie story structure has been foisted on novels and seems to rule. I actually don't find the tension increasing which is what the goal is. I may have to write a post about this on my editing blog. ;-) Anyway, great insights here.


  2. Enjoyed your summary of Merlin's Nightmare. I look forward to reading the book for myself, since I only just purchased the ebook today.

  3. First time I've heard of this series - will have to pick up the first one. Like that he jumps so far into the future with this one. I've used that trick...

  4. Jeff, thanks for the thoroughly thought out review. I like the 'opposition' concept as a way to look at the book ... Myrgwen really is a foil to Morgana, and this will escalate in the coming books as her presence along with Merlin helps tip the scales ... well, not *too* much ... we do have a dragon to worry about now!