This month the bloggers of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Tour are reviewing books 1 and 2 of Sigmund Brouwer’s Merlin’s Immortals Series. You can find a brief synopsis of The Orphan King and Fortress of Mist along with author information HERE.
I really like books centered on Arthurian legends, especially those that feature the role of Merlin. My favorite series is Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon’s Cycle. Sigmund Brouwer’s YA series incorporates the legends into a story set in 14th century England. Thomas, an orphan, has been raised in a remote monastery and steeped in the lore of his parent’s lost kingdom, Magnus. Magnus is a world of its own, even though it owes allegiance to the Earl of York and ultimately the King of England. Taking his cues from his mother’s teaching and his treasury of books, Thomas sets out at age eighteen to conquer the unconquerable with only the vow to his mother, a few motley traveling companions and a set of tricks/magic/scientific devices. His is surely a quest destined for defeat.
The Orphan King takes us on Thomas’ journey to reclaim his birthright. Fortress of Mist tells the tale of his early days of ruling Magnus along with a battle against the Scots. But there is so much more going on in the stories. We have the mysterious workings of the secretive Druids and the even more shadowy Immortals. It is a fight against good and evil that Thomas encounters and must eventually enter.
I liked the good guys and detested the bad guys — but for me the characters were not deep enough. I felt like I was just supposed to know what their stories were. (I wonder if this is the result of the series being a reworking of an earlier series.) And there is a lot of the story the reader has to assume (at least in the first book). I found myself rereading passages sure that I had missed something. Both books end with unresolved story lines; The Orphan King more so than Fortress of Mist. This is generally not a problem for me, but after 2 books and 400+ pages Thomas and I were no closer to discovering just who the Immortals are and what their motives entail. Because of the titling of the series, I thought much more light would be shined on them.
I think the book will appeal to teen readers who love mystery, knights, and magic. I enjoyed the historical references and think they would lead to more investigation by enquiring minds. But for this reader there just was too much missing to be truly enjoyable — character development, background story and hints of just what is going on.
But don’t let my opinion be the only one you read. There are some wonderful blog posts this week, so check them out:
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
(I received both books in this series from Waterbrook. The opinions offered are mine alone.)