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The Fires of Merlin    by T. A. Barron order for
Fires of Merlin
by T. A. Barron
Order:  USA  Can
Ace, 2000 (1998)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Fires of Merlin is the third of Barron's Lost Years of Merlin series. The action never lets up. It starts peacefully enough, with Merlin about to try the psaltery that he has crafted, hoping that it will unleash his magic. But this quiet interlude does not last and he is soon rushing headlong through a set of fast-paced and unrelenting adventures.

After years of battle the dragon Valdearg, Wings of Fire, was put to sleep by Merlin's grandfather, the wizard Tuatha. Now someone has slaughtered Valdearg's offspring. That wakes him up, hungry for vengeance ... and he is led to believe that Merlin was the culprit. Merlin must find a way to defeat him, without magic and despite a prophecy that predicts death for the dragon's destroyer.

The young Merlin is portrayed as strong and compassionate, ready to sacrifice himself for the common good - a true hero. Barron does not make things easy for him and the good suffer, though they do ultimately triumph. In his travels, Merlin meets old friends and enemies and finds new allies, in particular the deer people. He succeeds this time, not through magic, but through the power of understanding. Merlin learns more about himself in the process.

The Fires of Merlin does stand on its own, but it would be better to read The Lost Years of Merlin and The Seven Songs of Merlin first, for background. But don't start this latest story unless you have lots of time to read, it's impossible to put down.

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