girlyengine (girlyengine) wrote in setonhillwpf,

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Reading Journal Entry 3: The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

The Sum-Up:
Book One of the Arthurian Saga is told from Merlin's POV, and takes the reader from the chara's childhood all the way up to the fateful deal with Uther that leads to Arthur's conception.

The Review: IMHO
First off, I feel as though a book from Merlin's POV is an incredible waste of time. Why, you may ask? Simply because Merlin is not protagonist material. He's a fleeting chara, a force of nature, a plot catalyst. Period. Delving into his POV merely demystifies him, bringing him down to the levels of mortal man. To me, it's like writing a Star Wars book from Darth Vader's POV--"Padme, nooooooo!!!!" You get my point.

Second, and keeping in mind that "The Crystal Cave" was written in 1970, it's no wonder there are pages upon pages of what I've taken to calling "narrative spillage"--endless paragraphs of useless exposition about the trees, the rocks, the squirrels, that pixie in the corner, anything to distract from the story at hand. As I posted on the SHU boards, the overall result of Stewart's endeavor is the feeling that nothing ever happens in the book. There is no action. Every sentence of action is followed by at least 3 paragraphs of useless and rambling narrative.

As I said before, when a guy is kicking your ass, you probably won't have time to notice that "He was tall, young, with light brown hair showing reddish in the torchlight, and an elegant beard fringing his chin. His eyes were blue and looked angry. He was cloakless in the cold. He had a whip in his left hand" (Stewart 139)

An elegant beard? I swear, I wanted to punch her in the face. Maybe then, she'd see my elegant annoyance.

Now don't get me wrong. I like narrative summary. When it's done well. Stewart's dogged efforts at detailing every rock, bush, and stone that Merle-ol-girl passes is downright frustrating. It leaves the reader feeling directionless, like "Man, I'll never get those 10 hours back."

Furthermore, Stewart's over-emphasis on narrative leaves the chara completely lacking in any actual substance. After 400+ pages, I was still like, "Where is the inner conflict?" Merlin never makes any lasting relationships except with his father *yawn!* He never experiences love. Wow, way to defuse THAT interesting conflict. He can't even control his visions. They come and go as they please, and he is merely the vessel, the messenger, God's loofah--whatever. conflict there. There's no religious conflict since Stewart skirts the chara's obvious religious connotations and plays it safe somewhere between Christianity and some unknown *cough--wicca* OTHER religion.

A Ray of Sunshine?
But...just to try to glean SOMETHING out of my agony--this is a very good example of how NOT to write narrative summary.

The Skinny::
All in all, I'm not sure why Stewart wrote this book. My suspicion? To be the first to write a book from Merlin's POV. Like I said, I'll never get those 10 hours back.

Save yourself the trouble and watch "Excalibur."

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