I'm pretty disappointed with this. Studying a book I don't like in English is one of the most effective ways to make me like the book even less, because you get to pick it apart, and have to deal with in my opinion unjustified praise. Needless to say, I won't be read the sequels. This is for my Review ALL the Books Challenge 2013, for more information on that view here.
Title: The Crystal Cave
Author: Mary Stewart
Date of Completion: 22/3/2013
Rating: 2 stars
Reason for Reading: This was read for English in my year 12 Fantasy unit, and of all the amazing fantasy books there are, I wish we weren't stuck with this one.
Summary: We follow Merlin, the bastard child of a princess, as he learns the purpose behind his Sight, learns of his past and future and grows into manhood. A background story before the great Arthurian legend even starts, told from a different perspective.
Merlin - His personality seemed very bland, despite him being the narrator it's probably due to the unusual use of perspective (see The Writing). He's a shy then confident, intelligent, magical powers, dark, good-looking enough for a girl, quiet, misunderstood boy; like I've seen it all before and better written too.
Ambrosius - This guy has no faults, and he should considering he's a main character. We had to look for strengths and weaknesses in each character, but we couldn't for Ambrosius. But I do like his fairly unique defining characteristic of using every single person for their strengths.
Uther & Ygraine - Uther's written in a way that you do feel the appropriate emotions to him, but he's not a deep character. Ygraine surprisingly shows more depth than most characters, especially considering she's introduced in Book 5 and she is essentially a pawn. She's calculating, sure of herself, selfish, and although her only positive is being for the greater good, she's very concise. And she gets the only decent treatment out of the women in this novel.
Cadal & Cerdic - They both play the role of the faithful servant. While they were caring, loyal, smart and likeable, Cadal is too much of a pushover.
Merlin: Imma go live in a cave now coz that's what wise magician dudes do
Cadal: Ok, I shall live in cave with you and do your bidding
Niniane - Merlin's mother is strong-willed, loving and clever, but no-one gives her the credit she deserves. She had the Sight too, did we look into that, of course not, all we get is Merlin saying "she had the Sight but she only used it for love and other dumb woman stuff" (not direct quote), like what? how the crap would you know Merlin?! Unless you used your Sight to look into her Sight, woah Sightception.
Galapas & Belasius - blend into one, and they really could have done with some exploring, I wasn't even sure if Galapas had the Sight or not by the end of the novel, and how did he get into the cave? what did he use his skills for before tutoring Merlin? (Issue on Belasius in Plot).
Others - Surprisingly, Dinias had a character, even Ulfin did, which is weird considering how minor they are. Merlin's grandfather, Camlach and Vortigern were built up as possible big threats but they were never built on. Gorlois was there a fair bit, but I don't get his character too much, it was just "he is good guy, but we must get conception of Arthur so he is obstacle". Who the hell were Ralf and Bithrael anyway? They were just thrown in at the end and amongst all the confusion, so you're not sure where they came from. The way women are portrayed in The Crystal Cave really bugged my friend and I, especially considering the author's a woman, and it made us get our feminism on. I've already had a look at Ygraine and Niniane, but Keri was really badly written, like "ooh I'm lovely, nek minute, I'm a spiteful shallow ho". Dinias' 'slut' grr I really didn't like that labelling on her, sure she wanted sex, but you could see Dinias wanted sex too hitting on all the prostitutes at the pub, at least his 'slut' was committed, whereas Dinias and Keri weren't but you don't see them getting such a bad rap. The Saxon Queen really could have been explored but it was like "she's there, she's not good, she's Saxon, she has big boobies, and that is all".
The Plot: was mediocre at best, and here's why. All the important parts happen in Book 5: The Coming of the Bear, and the build-up (the rest of the novel) wasn't well done, more in The Writing section. And this great important overarching goal is **SPOILERS AHEAD:**essentially to get the lusty Uther laid, sure it brings about Arthur's conception**END SPOILER**. Another problem is that many characters die, which is fine, but every single death (but one) is off-screen and probably the only ones that are given justice is Cerdic **SPOILER AHEAD:**and Cadal **END SPOILER**; it's always by the time Merlin comes back the character is already dead, seriously I could list them: **SPOILERS AHEAD:**The King, Cerdic, Camlach, Galapas, Niniane, Ambrosius, Belasius, Gorlois (hopefully that is all) **END SPOILERs**. This links in with the previous problem, some things seem very important when you read them and are never brought back in the novel. For example, Belasius' religious ritual, it was written very detailed and the characters all make a big deal about it, then after the chapter it's not mention. Again with Camlach, he's written as a threat you think it's going to be like Simba running away then returning to Pride Rock to fight his uncle Scar and reclaim the throne, but no, **SPOILERS AHEAD:** Camlach's dead the next time you hear of him, lame **END SPOILERS**.
The Writing: despite what the English material says, a lot of the events in the novel have little effect/build up on the overarching goal of the novel, and therefore the ending feels incredibly rushed because all the important stuff is happening then. For Book 1: The Dove and a bit more the writing had an extremely imbalanced detail:actual-stuff-happening ratio, I don't care about your dumb lizard Merlin, there's 400 pages to go and you need to get on with it. Book 4: The Red Dragon, I kind of phased over, and the war stuff was not written engagingly at all. Since a lot of the novel didn't fill either of the criterion: build-up for the actual plot or engaging writing, and it was a long novel I felt a so much of it could have been cut out. 1st Person usually helps me get engaged but the book was just so dragged out and boring the perspective couldn't have much effect on that. It was also a confusing 1st person perspective as it was Merlin when he is really old narrating his life from when he was six to early-twenties, so that added to my lack of connection. The romance was horrible, and falls into my subcategoy 'and then suddenly boobs' (along with previous English text The Gathering), it's as bad as it sounds and I won't say anymore on that.