Steven Maines has written a very interesting series, The Merlin Factor, about the man who was reincarnated from Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced Christ with his spear during the Crucifixion, to Myrriddin (Merlin of King Arthur’s Court) and finally as Liam Arthur Mason, whose name is mispronounced as Masoud by the Muslims during the Third Crusade.
I was anxious to read this third book in the series after having read the first two. (You can read my previous review of Myrriddin: Book II of the Merlin Factor at Reader Views: http://www.readerviews.com/ReviewMainesMyrridinBookII.html which also mentions the first book in the series, Longinus, which is my favorite of the three.)
In general, modern Arthurian novels can be divided into two categories:
- Historical—where the author tries to depict Arthur in his historical time period and be realistic—no magic.
- Fantasy—where magic is prevalent and history is of little importance and rarely depicted accurately.
Some authors try to blend these categories, offering a fantasy element to the historical time period—The Mists of Avalon might be termed historical fantasy for this reason, and the same is true of The Merlin Factor series.
I would propose a third category, which could be called perhaps the New Age, spiritual, or even anti-Christian at times, genre, and The Merlin Factor belongs to this category as well.
Unlike most series that focus on King Arthur and his court, The Merlin Factor stands out for depicting the time just after Christ in Longinus’ story, and then also depicting the Third Crusade. The reincarnation of the main character is what ties the three books together. Also tying them together is the Spear of Longinus, which has great power and always manages to get back into the main character’s hands.
Because Myrriddin is a Druid, many of the passages in Masoud refer to religion and spirituality that is not orthodox with Christian themes, and it is apparent that Christianity itself is rejected by the main character as being untrue by comparison to reincarnation and more Celtic religious and spiritual beliefs. This stance is very powerful and moving in places, and the arguments, common in many New Age (a term that is somewhat derogatory and that I do not particularly like but will use for lack of a better word) books. While these types of statements have been made in other Arthurian novels, they are more prevalent here than usual, and I believe they make the novel and the characters stronger for it. The general theme throughout the trilogy is that the character of Myrriddin is evolving and moving to a higher spiritual state as he undergoes his experiences.
Yes, there is action, although the action adventure feel of this novel moves a bit slower than most, and the author is clearly more interested in the metaphysical and spiritual/magical aspects of the theme than the plot itself. In brief, the main character Mason travels to the Holy Land to fight in the Third Crusade; he is captured by the Muslims and even meets Salah al-Din, the great Arab leader. In the process, Mason begins to remember his past lives, and he gains the name Masoud from the Muslims who come to respect him for his ability to control the Spear. Mason/Masoud learns secrets of the Knights Templar and reveals a plot that will hurt the Crusaders’ cause. A battle is also fought to possess Jerusalem.
I found the metaphysical/religious discussion engaging, the plot less so. My suspension of disbelief was sustained throughout, although I felt the way the Spear is used, as well as pieces of the True Cross, to create weapons of power to hurt the enemy was a bit too unorthodox for my taste—I hate to think Holy Relics would be used for war, although I know they have been believed to have that power in the past, including by Adolf Hitler. A few more typos than there should have been were also in the book, but that is a small complaint.
I believe Masoud is the last book Steven Maines plans to write in the series, but honestly, I wish there were one or two more to bring the story up to the twenty-first century.
I encourage readers who enjoy this sort of New Age Arthurian genre to read The Merlin Factor series. More information can be found at the website of the publisher, Purple Haze: http://purplev.com/live_purple/steven_maines_books
Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com