The Arthurian Tales have been told a number of different times in a myriad of ways, and Carmel Niland’s A Darker Magic This Way Comes is one such “telling” or twist on the classic tale. It begins with Merlin, advising that he’s got a secret or two that he needs to get off of his chest. Then commences a 400+ page novel about a young Merlin and his ability to communicate and interact with Emily; a young girl who exists in our time. Merlin’s timeline (or POV) is indicated with italicized font and Emily is the non-italicized, so the novel tends to jump back and forth between the two.
The plot line in this novel is sometimes a little difficult to suss out, as there tends to be quite a lot of information presented in each little switch of point of view. The back and forth of it can sometimes become a little hard to keep track of, but the farther along the novel goes, the better it gets. The dialogue feels a little stilted, as Emily is a young girl who exclaims with statements such as: “Hey, there’s a very good reason we have not explored it, because I am not in love!” Her dialogue is often this way, and it feels unnatural, especially when considering her age. Contractions may not be exactly correct, but it seems like a girl of her age would likely be using a lot more of them. Many of the characters talk this way, and there tends to be exposition within statements that are being made that make it feel off. However, Merlin is fantastical and somewhat arrogant, Emily is an understandable character as a girl in love, and the history mixed up with the fantasy will be enjoyable to any reader who likes Arthurian legend and general fantasy. Give it a read, even if just for the little mice that hang out on Myrddin’s shoulders.
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