The Young Merlin Trilogy

I read this book over a month ago for Carl V’s Once Upon a Time II challenge, but got sidetracked by the ending of the school year and have finally found enough time to write about it.

The Horn Book said that The Young Merlin Trilogy, by Jane Yolen, is “a worthy introduction to Arthurian legend…” and I agree. This story brings to life the youngster who would eventually become the great wizard, Merlin. I really enjoyed it and recommend it highly. Jane Yolen is such a good writer! I love the way she structured this trilogy — each of the three books is named after a stage in the life of a falcon, and symbolizes Merlin’s stage of life. The first book is called Passager, the second is called Hobby, and the final book is called Merlin.

PASSAGER
A falcon caught in the wild and trained by the falconer, but not yet a mature bird.

Abandoned by his mother, eight-year old Merlin survived alone in the woods for a year, a feral child, before being found by a kindly falconer and cared for and trained to be a falconer himself. It was not an uncommon practice in the Middle Ages for families to abandon a child in the woods, and when the child is found to be taken in and raised by people who found him.

HOBBY
A small Old World falcon or hawk that has been trained and flown at small birds.

In the second book, Merlin is 12 years old and once again on his own after his adopted family was killed in a fire. On the road, Merlin is captured by a cruel thug who calls himself Fowler. Merlin is able to escape from him and meets a traveling performing couple, a magician named Ambrosius and a singer named Viviane. They see that Merlin has special abilities, that he is a “dream reader,” and they use his power to earn money. They abandon him and take all the money with them, and Merlin, being pursued by Fowler, returns to the safety of the deep woods.

MERLIN
The smallest British falcon or hawk; its wingbeats are powerful and, despite its size, it seldom fails of its prey.

In the final book, Merlin eludes Fowler, but is captured by the wild folk of the wood — the wodewose. He is caged and forced to drink a potion to make him dream so that he can relate the future to them. One of the children, called “Cub,” befriends him and helps him escape. They flee into the forest and help each other survive. Merlin names the child “Artus,” and the story of Merlin and Arthur begins.

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7 thoughts on “The Young Merlin Trilogy

  1. DesLily

    good review. Three books for the price of one haha..

    maybe I chose wrongly.. I have the first book by T A BArron on merlin which is a 5 book series of him growing up.. but I haven’t read it yet. it’s in that TBR pile!

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  2. thebluestockings

    I read The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen as a child. I loved the book, but never looked into other books she had written. I’ve added this trilogy to the to-be-requested-post-haste-from-my-library list. Thanks!

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  3. Robin

    Thanks, Deslily. I need to read the T.A. Barron series, too. It sounds really good. I did enjoy this trilogy, and think young and old would enjoy it.

    Nymeth, I really admire Jane Yolen. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a picture book, a young adult book, or something she’s written for adults…it’s always really well done.

    Jessica, I read The Devil’s Arithmetic years ago, but need to reread it. I loved her Briar Rose.

    Thanks, Maggie. I’ll check out your Sense of Place contest. It was so much fun last year!

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  4. Rhinoa

    After reading Nymeth’s review a few months ago I got myself a copy. Thanks for the reminder that I need to read it! It sounds like just my kind of book. Have you read the Mary Stewart books about Merlin? The Hollow Hills, The Crystal Cave and The Last Enchantment. I recommend that you do if you haven’t already.

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  5. Robin

    Thanks, Rhinoa. Yes, I have read Mary Stewart’s Merlin books and loved them. I think this one is a very good introduction to Merlin for young people. I enjoyed it but didn’t love it as I did Mary Stewart’s books.

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