The Fires of Merlin
by T.A. Barron
The third book in the Lost Years of Merlin
sequence finds Merlin on the point of finishing his rite of initiation into the "high magic" of a wizard. Like all other wizards, he must first study the arts of magic under a tutor. But since the magical land of Fincayra-- the "in-between place" that is neither of our world nor of the spirit world, but a little of both-- has no other living wizards, Merlin accepts instruction from the bard Cairpré. And after getting through all the material in record time, he is about to complete the final step: creating and playing the magical, musical instrument that will reveal whether or not he will become a real wizard.
But on the point of plucking the strings of his little psaltery, Merlin's hopes are dashed by an unforeseen accident. And then, summoned to the realm of the dwarves to fulfill his promise to the enchantress Urnalda, Merlin finds himself stripped of his powers and betrayed into the claws of a gigantic dragon named Wings of Fire. A dragon who has slept long years, under a spell cast by Merlin's own grandfather. A dragon who can only be destroyed by a descendant of his old enemy... but whose destroyer will also die. Awakened, and angry, Wings of Fire is coming for Merlin, whom he believes to have killed his nine newly-hatched young. And Merlin is powerless to fight him.
Or is he? Playing his psaltery was to be his one and only chance to enter the world of high magic-- but it was destroyed just as his fingertips touched the strings. The magic he did have has been stolen by Urnalda, along with the staff touched by the spirit of his grandfather Tuatha. And the one remaining magical instrument that Merlin can count on-- the stone Galator-- has been stolen from the lair of the hag Domnu.
Worse still, while Merlin races to make it to his fateful confrontation with a dragon he cannot possibly defeat, he is harried by enemies bent on destroying all the magic in Fincayra...and by hideous creatures called kreelixes that feed on magic itself. This sinister business of "negatum mysterium" and "Clan Righteous" smacks of the work of Rhita Gawr, the evil warlord of the spirit world. Befriended by a horse and a "deer woman," Merlin's only hope is to find the great power within him-- though he feels sure that all his magic is gone, and all its containers destroyed.
Friends of Harry Potter will feel right at home, with a hero armed with a scar that reminds him of a brush with an evil overlord, who continues to wreak havoc through minions who believe that what they are doing is good and right. Seethe with fury against Urnalda, break your heart in grief over friends lost (or at least thought to be lost), hold your breath in suspense as the enemies attack in strength, and dance in joy at the triumph that-- seeing as Merlin had a long and distinguished career-- ought to be a foregone conclusion. Yet somehow, the suspense is still there.
Care of magical creatures advisory: you'll never look at dragons the same way.
Recommended Age: 12+
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