The Merlin Effect
by T. A. Barron
They're an unlikely research team, messing with sensors and deep-sea submersibles off a treacherous stretch of Mexican coast. First there's teenaged Kate, who seems to have tagged along just for a chance to spend time with her historian father, only to spend most of the time paddling around in a kayak while Dad searches for the wreck of a Spanish treasure ship. What this has to do with his area of expertise (proving that Merlin was a historical person) is not immediately clear, but neither is the connection to a marine biologist studying the strange, evolutionary-throwback fish of the area, or to a geologist whose interest lies in the volcanic activity beneath the ocean floor. All they seem to have in common is an interest in studying what's going on under that particular patch of sea, and growing desperation as their permit from the Mexican government nears its expiration date.
Things start to change soon after Kate encounters a whale and a whirlpool during an almost fatal evening paddle in her kayak. Suddenly the evidence her father has been looking for—an underwater photo of the sunken ship Resurreccion—gives them a reason to take the submersible to the sea bottom, directly below the whirlpool. But due to a freak accident, it is Kate who gets there first, even without any diving gear or vessel. Surprisingly, she finds dry ground at the bottom of the 3,000-foot whirlpool, and on that ground a shipwreck, and in that shipwreck a 500-year-old monk named Geoffrey who has been kept alive by the power of the Horn of Merlin. Geoffrey tells Kate the whole story about the horn, its maker Emrys, the wizard Merlin, and how they are all connected to a kingdom beneath the waves and a power to give some type of immortality. Basically, if they don't recover a group of ancient, powerful artifacts before the sorceress Nimue does so, King Arthur will never be able to return and win the final battle.
And by the way, Nimue has Kate's Dad. The life or death of the entire research team now matters more than Kate ever realized, especially now that Terry (the geologist) turns out to be such a good friend. As for who Geoffrey turns out to be... Well, I can only spoil so many surprises before a book recommendation becomes a book autopsy. And I do recommend this book to readers of all ages who think they might be interested in a tale of danger and magic, of warmth and whimsy, of sea monsters and battles and myths and merpeople. I started this book by the author of The Lost Years of Merlin expecting something Diana-Wynne-Jonesesque, like perhaps The Merlin Conspiracy. Instead I was reminded more of the Merlin lore of T. H. White—or more precisely, Disney's rendition of The Sword in the Stone. I'm disappointed that there hasn't been a sequel to this book. However, it turns out to be the third book in a series of Kate's adventures, which also include Heartlight and The Ancient One.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 12+
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