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The Ring of Morgana by Donna Hosie is the first volume in The Children of Camelot Series. As most of my readers of this blog know, in my book King Arthur’s Children (2010) I predicted that the trend to continue to create children for King Arthur to carry the Arthurian story forward would continue and this novel is further indication I was correct. In fact, it was published in 2014, the same year I began publishing my five-volume The Children of Arthur historical fantasy series, detailing King Arthur’s descendants from the sixth to twenty-first centuries.

The Ring of Morgana is the first book in Donna Hosie’s The Children of Camelot series and a sequel to her The Return to Camelot Trilogy.

Hosie’s novel is in some ways similar but in others very different to my own series. It also begins in the twenty-first century. We are introduced to sixteen-year-old Mila Roth and her ten-year-old sister, Lilly. They live in Wales in a house called Avalon Cottage, which is rumored to be haunted. The truth, though, is that Mila and Lilly’s parents have some secrets they’ve been keeping from their daughters, including that they possess a mysterious sapphire ring. I won’t go into the full details of the plot (spoiler alert though that I will give quite a bit away), but basically, Lilly gets ahold of the ring, puts it on her finger, and it begins to make her deadly sick. This situation results in numerous secrets coming out, including that Mila and Lilly’s dad is King Arthur and their mother, although she goes by the name Sam, or Lady Samantha, is apparently really Morgana, a Gorian priestess.

So yes, we have another novel with King Arthur having daughters. What is interesting from here on is that Morgana is the mother of two girls. As the novel progresses, there is no indication that Morgana is the mother of Mordred, as is more typical in Arthurian fiction. Mordred is referenced in the novel (he’s already dead), but it is never stated that he is in any way related to Arthur or Morgana. (Here I should point out that this novel was written after Hosie wrote her The Return to Camelot Trilogy, which I have not read, but which seems to be a prelude to this novel. Consequently, certain details of this book’s plot I may have not understood as thoroughly as if I had read that series first—I was unaware at the time I bought this book that it was linked to Hosie’s earlier series.)

In order to save Lilly, it is necessary for the Roth family (why did Hosie choose that name? It’s not Welsh) to travel back in time to Camelot. Here I think is the only real fault of the novel. Hosie has her characters travel back in time one thousand years—this date is preposterous to me because it would suggest they go back to the year 1014 A.D., give or take a few years. They arrive in the kingdom of Logres at Glastonbury and then travel to Camelot. This year is about 500 years too late. In 1014, Ethelred the Unready was King of all of England and a Saxon king. The novel states that Mila was born during the Battle of Mount Badon, the traditional date of which is 516 and when King Arthur and his Welsh/Celtic contemporaries would have likely lived. A few other historical oddities exist in the novel in terms of some of the name choices—Mila’s aunt is named Natasha and she’s married to Bedivere—Natasha is a Russian name. No one in medieval Britain would have had that name. (Plus, Bedivere is an English version of the Welsh Bedwyr, which I used in my own novels.) Some of the other name choices are equally odd.

In any case, the family arrives back in medieval Logres. Along with them comes Mila’s best friend, Rustin. I mention him, although he’s not related to Arthur, because he plays a significant role in the plot and the sequel book Quest of the Artisan will apparently focus on Rustin, who enjoys woodworking and becomes known as the Artisan in this novel.

The plot now revolves around Merlin trying to heal Lilly while the family reside at Camelot—ruled by Guinevere, who is in love with Lancelot. (The romance dynamics of the novel seem to assume the reader read the earlier series since I never figured out how Arthur and Guinevere must be married, yet he lives in the twenty-first century with Sam/Morgana). Guinevere is childless as usual, but she is very gracious to Arthur and his daughters, who until now have lived in the twenty-first century since it’s apparently safer for them there.

It turns out that Mila must do battle with Nimue in order to save Lilly—this also relates back to themes in the earlier novels—apparently Nimue had some sort of romantic crush on Arthur that caused trouble.

In the end, Mila succeeds and Lilly is healed, and then everyone returns to the twenty-first century, but Rustin is unhappy and decides to figure out how to return to Camelot.

One final point of interest in terms of treatments of King Arthur and his children should be mentioned here. Mordred is dead at the time of the novel. However, he has a son, Melehan, who is about Rustin and Mila’s age and is under the care of Sir Gareth (presumably his uncle). Melehan is traditionally the name of Mordred’s son, which usually would make him King Arthur’s grandson (in my own Children of Arthur series, I used the alternative spelling Meleon; there he is the son of Mordred and grandson of Arthur and Morgana). Mordred does not seem to be related to Arthur in this novel so that means Melehan is not one of Arthur’s descendants.

The novel closes with Melehan traveling to the twenty-first century to meet Mila and tell her he has much to tell her about Rustin and the others back in Camelot, leaving the ending open for a sequel.

I’ll conclude by saying that I thought The Ring of Morgana a very readable and interesting novel. I especially enjoyed the realistic depiction of Mila and her teenage friends in Wales. The build-up of Mila learning the truth about her family and background were all well-done. I admit I was less interested in Mila’s battle with Nimue to save her sister than in the other parts of the novel, but overall, it is one of the better Arthurian novels I have read in recent years and should appeal to young adults as well as anyone who enjoys a more science fiction/time-travel type of Arthurian novel. Those who are diehard fans of historical fiction and a more traditional Arthurian storyline will find it less appealing.

Stay tuned for a future blog about the novel’s sequel, Quest of the Artisan, and perhaps more blogs about The Return to Camelot trilogy.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, Lilith’s Love, and the upcoming Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, plus numerous other historical novels. You can learn more about Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

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Here’s a sneak peek at the beginning of my new novel, Arthur’s Legacy, which retells the tale of Camelot from a perspective that alleges not only that Mordred was not a traitor, but that King Arthur’s descendants live among us today. Enjoy!

 

PROLOGUE

 “For God’s sake let us sit upon the ground

And tell sad stories of the death of kings.”

— William Shakespeare, Richard II

Meleon had never thought it would come to this. He knew he and his brother, Prince Morgant, were far from the great knights that their grandfather, King Arthur, or even their father, Prince Mordred, had been, so if those two great men had not succeeded in defeating the usurper Constantine, how could he and Morgant? Yet, Meleon had hoped the good Lord above would aid them in their battle.

But it had been a slaughter, a hopeless slaughter. The brave and loyal men of Britain, those left who had not been slain at Camlann and many more—farmers, millers, merchants, all able bodied men who remained loyal to Arthur’s blood—had done their best. But what could they do against a tyrant who was aided by a witch?

Arthur’s Legacy: The Children of Arthur, Book One – the first in a five book Arthurian historical fantasy series

Arthur’s Legacy: The Children of Arthur, Book One – the first in a five book Arthurian historical fantasy series

The men had fought valiantly all that afternoon, but when the ravens began to flock above the battlefield with the decline of day and Meleon looked about him, having just run his blade through one of Constantine’s men, he saw that few of his own army remained on the field, and if they did not retreat now, those few would also fall by the sword.

“Meleon!” cried Morgant. “It’s hopeless! Hurry! We must get away!”

Meleon hated to turn and run, but he knew his brother was right. His father and grandfather would not have thought it cowardly if he sought to save his own life. Then perhaps he could make it safely to Lesser Britain, to their distant cousins there, to raise a new army, to seek out Merlin, the great wizard who had disappeared from Britain years before, but who might be the only one alive now who could fight against the witch. Meleon, however, had never even met Merlin, only heard tales of him, so how could he know whether the wizard were still alive? But sightings of him had been rumored over the years, and what other hope was there?

No time to think of Merlin now. Meleon turned and rushed after his brother, joined by a couple of dozen fellow soldiers as the enemy’s army tried to pursue them. They ran over the nearby hill and into the forest, the enemy cutting down half of them along the way, the blood of his comrades spraying onto Meleon’s face as he fought to try to save them. But once his men reached the forest, the enemy failed to pursue them farther, and Meleon and Morgant led their loyal handful of followers into the woods.

They were hardly worth pursuing now. Doubtless, Constantine and his men would find them if he wanted their lives, and they were bleeding so profusely from their many wounds that they could not run far.

Still, they managed to make their way through the forest as the sky darkened, and after a couple of miles, as night finally fell, they emerged into a clearing where stood a small monastery, one Meleon knew well—it was where the great Sir Bedwyr had retreated after the fatal Battle of Camlann where Arthur and Mordred had been slain.

Just that morning, Meleon’s men had camped at the monastery before going to face Constantine, and Meleon had then begged Sir Bedwyr to join them in battle, even declaring that as Arthur’s heir, he, Meleon, was now Bedwyr’s king, so it was his duty to obey him.

But Bedwyr had calmly said, “No. All the trouble that has come upon Britain is my fault. It is God’s punishment for my and Queen Guinevere’s sins. I am not wise, nor good, but I can hold off causing more pain and bloodshed.”

Meleon could not believe the knight’s words. Never had there ever been a braver man in all the history of Britain than Sir Bedwyr, so how could he desert them now?

“It is desertion, you know,” Meleon had said, trying to incite the knight to anger so he would join them. “You are being disloyal to Arthur. If you wish to make penance for your sins, the best way is to take up arms against he who has usurped Arthur’s throne.”

But Bedwyr would have none of it. “My king is in heaven now,” he said. Meleon did not know whether by “my king” Bedwyr meant his deceased grandfather or God himself, but either way, it would not help Britain.

“God does not want an evil witch to sit on the throne of Britain,” Meleon had argued.

“God takes no interest in the wars of humans,” Bedwyr had replied. “He cares only for their salvation, and war, in any form and for any reason, works against that salvation.”

Now as Meleon struggled across the meadow to the monastery’s door, he wondered whether Bedwyr would even give him and his men sanctuary.

He need not have wondered, however, for the monks had been watching for their return, and without surprise at their greatly reduced numbers, the holy brothers quickly rushed outdoors to help them inside to treat their wounds.

Bedwyr greeted the princes, separating them from their men and telling them to come with him into the chapel.

“We will pray,” said Bedwyr, “for those whose lives were lost this day, both those of your own men and those of Constantine’s.”

“Pray for the souls of traitors!” spat out Morgant.

“Before your grandfather Arthur went to Avalon to be healed, he told me to pray for him and the souls of all men,” said Bedwyr calmly. And then he turned and walked to the chapel, and the princes, too exhausted to argue, decided it was best to follow and get the praying over with so Bedwyr might find them a meal and aid them in further escape.

“We cannot stay long,” said Meleon. “My wife Rachel will be grief-stricken with worry. We must find a boat and sail to Rheged so I can warn her of what has happened.”

“There is no need,” said Bedwyr, “this morning after your army left, a messenger arrived to bring news of your wife. He journeyed all night and was exhausted; he is resting inside the monastery, waiting to give you the news, but for now, it is enough to tell you that Princess Rachel gave birth two days ago to your son, whom she named Arthur after your grandfather, and this morning, she embarked with the child and several knights of her father, King Accolon, for Lesser Britain to find safety there, for Constantine has sent another army against Rheged. The messenger barely escaped them as they marched toward the castle just an hour after Princess Rachel and the child made their escape.”

“Thank God for her safety,” said Meleon as they entered the chapel. “I will pray then that God be with her, as well as with my father-in-law, King Accolon, and his people.”

Bedwyr bid the princes follow him to the altar in the small chapel, and there the three knelt and spoke silently to God of what troubled their hearts.

But their prayers were not to be finished. Not three minutes after they knelt, the chapel door was flung open and in strode Constantine with half-a-dozen of his armed men and the Witch Queen following him.

Bedwyr jumped up, instinctively reaching for his sword, but there was none by his side.

Morgant only had time to half-draw his sword before Constantine’s own sword swung through the air, severing the prince’s head.

“No!” cried Meleon, his sword drawn to engage his enemy in combat.

Constantine’s men, however, quickly surrounded the prince. One of them, having not a shred of honor, struck Meleon a blow in the back, which did not pierce his armor but sent the prince to the floor. A second later, Constantine’s sword rested against Meleon’s throat.

“Sacrilege!” shouted Bedwyr, who had been grabbed by three burly knights, now struggling to hold him, his old fighting spirit having been raised by the attack. “Would you shed blood in the House of God?”

“Silence!” screamed the Witch Queen, she who was named Gwenhwyvach and who claimed to be sister to Guinevere and the true Queen of Britain. Stepping up to Bedwyr, she laughed in his face. “Fool knight, you who thought yourself invincible—look at you now, a beggar monk. To such humility I have driven the strongest man in Britain. You are just like every other man since the time of Adam himself. Weak, foolish, a coward, afraid of women, afraid of my power, afraid of your very self.”

“My lady,” said Constantine, drawing her attention, “with this sword blow, I now do claim all Britain as wholly ours.”

And with those words and before Gwenhwyvach even could speak, he plunged his sword through Meleon’s throat.

Meleon could not believe the agonizing sting of the metal as it severed his flesh. He struggled for breath, his body going into panic mode.

“Fool!” screeched Gwenhwyvach at her consort. “Did I tell you to slay him? First I must know where the rings are!”

“What rings?” asked Constantine.

“Where are the rings?” Gwenhwyvach demanded, staring down at Meleon with piercing eyes.

But Meleon closed his eyes, for he had heard that the Witch Queen could read the very secrets of a man’s soul in his eyes. He knew which rings she meant—the royal rings of Avalon, the rings his grandfather and grandmother had always worn. Once, when he had been a small boy, he had sat on his grandfather’s lap and played with his ring and his grandfather had said, “This ring holds incredible power such that even I don’t know how fully to use it or all its secrets. But one day it shall be yours, and you shall pass it to all the Kings of Britain who shall come after you.” Meleon had always wondered what power it held, but he had never dared to ask his grandfather more. Neither his grandfather nor grandmother ever would have taken those rings from their fingers, so if…as Sir Bedwyr had told him…Morgana had…had taken…. Meleon could barely think…hated that he was dying…would never again…see Rachel or his son…. But if Morgana had taken…King Arthur to Avalon…the rings were there…and safe until his son….

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, and the novel Arthur’s Legacy, The Children of Arthur: Book One, to be released in June 2014. You can visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com and www.GothicWanderer.com

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Merlin has ended, and unlike King Arthur, it doesn’t seem likely that it will be the once and future TV show, despite countless fans on Facebook and across the Internet trying to convince the producers to continue it.

And as much as I love this show, I’m glad it has ended gracefully, before it “jumped the shark,” before it was cancelled without an ending.

Merlin310_2289The series finale offered few surprises in my opinion, but that is because we have heard the tale of King Arthur so many times before, and despite the original elements of the series, which often seriously diverged from the legend, I doubt any viewer who knows the Arthurian legend would have been content with any other ending than Arthur sailing off to Avalon.

It’s unlikely anyone will read this blog who didn’t see the episode, so I won’t summarize the plot here, but go watch the last two episodes of the series if you haven’t already.

For me, this series had a serious amount of content that needed resolving in this final episode. The strength of this storyline throughout has been the prohibition of magic in Albion, imposed by Uther and then by Arthur, and how Merlin has successfully kept secret his identity as a sorcerer from everyone, while trying to aid others with magic and often fighting those with magic who sought to harm Arthur, most notably Morgana. The series has done a tremendous job of highlighting this tension throughout, and in the last two seasons especially, we have seen Merlin come into his own, slowly using his powers and even revealing himself to his enemies before destroying them. And despite my earlier blog about the Old Religion and magic and the inconsistencies that exist in its treatment in the series, what has mattered most to the storyline has been how Merlin reconciles his magic with his relationship with Arthur, as Arthur’s servant in greater ways than Arthur knows.

And the series reconciles this issue with great ease and class. In the final episode, Merlin appears as a sorcerer, identity unknown to all except Gaius, at the Battle of Camlann, using his power to defeat the enemy, and having everyone realize a sorcerer has saved the day for Camelot, even Arthur admitting that the sorcerer won the battle. But Merlin cannot save Arthur from being slain by Mordred. Surprisingly, Arthur lingers for a couple of days after Mordred runs him through with a sword, while when Arthur stabs Mordred, he dies immediately.

Now Merlin must figure out how to save Arthur before Morgana can find him, and because he was slain with a sword forged in the dragon’s breath, he can only be saved if brought to Avalon, a journey that requires secrecy and a couple of days’ journey, allowing Arthur and Merlin to have the discussion they have put off all these years.

Merlin, in despair, tells Arthur how upset he is that he could not save him which leads to his revelation that he has magic and is a sorcerer. The result is Arthur’s initial disbelief, then anger that he has been lied to, even wanting Merlin to leave him, and finally, Arthur’s understanding of why Merlin kept his powers a secret, and of the great help Merlin has always been to him.

I admit, at this point, when Arthur tells Merlin he has something to tell him that he never told him before, I thought the show was going to give into the “Merthur” fans and have Arthur tell Merlin he loves him. It was for me a bit of an uncomfortable moment, for the Merthur fans (those who want to see a gay relationship between Arthur and Merlin) have not been too far off—Merlin’s closeted magic can easily serve as a commentary on closeted gay people within our own society who are unappreciated and unjustly considered to be deviant—but the show gracefully skirts these undertones (which may or may not be intentional—I’ll leave it up to each viewer to decide) by having Arthur simply say, “Thank you.” And thank you is enough for Merlin, and that moment is enough to resolve the show’s greatest tension. It is a powerful moment. Perhaps one of the very best in television history.

What happens next is not so surprising. Morgana makes one last attempt to kill Arthur, but Merlin successfully kills her, slaying her with Excalibur, a dragon breath forged sword just like the one she created to kill Arthur. To some extent, I found Morgana’s death scene anti-climactic, and more disappointing for me is that Morgana and Arthur did not reconcile in the end, for in the traditional legend, it is Morgana who comes to Arthur when he is dying to take him to Avalon. Morgana truly got the short end of the stick in this show—I almost wanted her to win in the end—she’s a great character who deserved redemption of some sort and the reconciliation of the Old Religion with Camelot—but perhaps that was too much to expect, too much happiness for what is basically a tale of tragedy.

Not only does Morgana not take Arthur to Avalon, but nor are there the traditional three other queens who accompany her, and there is no Sir Bedivere to tell Arthur to throw the sword into the lake. Merlin takes on all these roles. Merlin tosses the sword back in the lake and the hand reaches up to grab it. The dragon arrives and tells Merlin not to despair for all has happened as it should and Arthur is the once and future king who will return in Albion’s hour of greatest need, and then Arthur is placed in a boat and floats off to Avalon.

As for Albion, the throne passes to Guinevere. I don’t really want to know what happens next because it will be inferior to whatever came before. I had hoped we’d learn that Guinevere was at least pregnant with Arthur’s child, but no such hint. I imagine she’ll end up marrying Sir Leon since he’s at her side proclaiming her queen.

And then we see Merlin as an old man walking along the shore by the lake, and suddenly, a bus passes, a jarring moment letting us know that Merlin still waits for Arthur’s return, but also one that makes Albion appear to be part of our real world and not a fantasy kingdom. I’ve always believed the show intentionally created a fictional world, including fictional neighboring kingdoms, so it would not be caught up in the issues of depicting a sixth century, historical Britain. So I found this modern moment jarring, as well as the references in the last few episodes to Saxons, without any explanation of who they were. Albion is not England nor Britain, yet the show ends on this odd note trying to connect the two. I’d have been fine without that final scene.

My qualms with the series overall are few, however. Long ago I stated it was the best Arthurian TV series ever made, far surpassing the short-lived 2011 Starz Camelot series that was a complete disaster, or even the fun 1950s British The Adventures of Sir Lancelot series. Is it perfect? No. There has yet to be a perfect Arthurian film or television program, but Merlin gets an A- for effort. Finally, I think Colin Morgan has proven himself to be a great actor in this series and I hope it leads to big things for him—just not another Merlin series. Please, I understand the fans’ demands, but don’t destroy Merlin with a spin-off or sequel series. Like with Gone with the Wind, we need to leave well enough alone. Let there be many other Arthurian TV shows and films and books—I hope there shall never be an end to them. Just let Merlin be the great TV show it was without degrading it. Congratulations to the writers, producers, and cast for ending it well.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. He is currently working on a series of novels about Arthur’s descendants. You can visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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With the SyFy channel’s hiatus in showing the last episodes of Season 5 of Merlin, I’ve been going through serious withdrawal, and I’m still trying to piece together just what are the details in the series about The Old Religion, magic, and the history of Albion. For that reason, I was thrilled when I discovered there were a series of novels written as tie-ins to several of the Merlin episodes. For those interested, the website for the book series is: http://www.merlin-books.co.uk/

Unfortunately, the books are very difficult to find in the United States, and many of them at Amazon are being sold for hundreds of dollars. I was able to locate a copy of Merlin: The Nightmare Begins at Amazon for a reasonable price, and I was delighted when it came in the mail to see it was a hardback which I hadn’t expected. Unfortunately, my delight ended there.

Merlin: The Nightmare Begins

Merlin: The Nightmare Begins

I am sure many fans of the series will enjoy these books, especially younger readers, but I was very disappointed. I have read movie and book tie-ins before and I know they are usually written as an afterthought and they usually don’t give more information or plot or characterization than the movie or TV show itself, but some of the reviews I read of the books in the series, not Merlin: The Nightmare Begins specifically, did say that some additional information is in the books. I admit that I didn’t re-watch the episode that ties in with this book (“The Nightmare Begins, season 2, episode 3), but nor did I find anything additional in the book that was worth mentioning. I was happy to order this volume specifically because of my interest in the series’ depiction of magic and the Old Religion, and this book details how Morgana has nightmares and leaves Camelot to seek the druids, who make her realize she is not crazy but has magic herself.

Unfortunately, the writing in the book was very dull, pedestrian, and did nothing to make the story more interesting or intriguing. In fact, halfway through reading, I took a nap. Then I woke up, thinking maybe I was just too tired to read, but the book didn’t get any better when I returned to it. It took me about three times as long to read this book as it would have to watch the episode. I’d have been better off to watch and enjoy three episodes of Merlin than to read it. Moments in the storyline that were caught in the film that contained humor, charm, action are all lacking in the retelling of this story.

Perhaps some of the other books are better. I would go so far as to read another one if I could find it at a reasonable price, but it is unlikely, as I first intended, that I will want to collect the entire series.

It’s too bad because I really love the series Merlin. I think it’s the best Arthurian TV series ever made, and it probably surpasses most if not all of the Arthurian movies, despite criticism it has received that it has little to do with the actual Arthurian legend, but its production qualities are very high in my opinion. Sadly, the book series’ production value is not up to the TV series’ standards.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. He is currently working on a series of novels about Arthur’s descendants. You can visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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In the third episode of Season 5 of Merlin – “The Death Song of Uther Pendragon” – the series takes a real shift, and although I didn’t feel the episode as complexly well-plotted as some, it did provide plenty of dramatic atmosphere and interest.

Arthur Arthur and Merlin both have key life-changing moments in this episode. The two are traveling when they come upon a group of villagers about to burn a witch. Arthur decides to order them to release the witch – something they point out would not have been done by his father, but Arthur replies that he is not his father. Despite his being in agreement with his father about forbidding magic in Albion, he is not as stringent about it.

The witch thanks him for his saving her, although it is too late for her. Before she dies, she gives him a horn that can allow him to speak with the dead. Soon after, the three year anniversary of Uther’s death approaches, causing Arthur to want to see his father again. He and Merlin then travel to the Stones of Nemeton (which look a lot like Stonehenge). Arthur blows the horn and enters through a light that appears where he speaks to his father, but the meeting is not cordial. Uther upbraids him for making commoners into knights and marrying Guinevere and destroying tradition. Then he orders Arthur to go before he his trapped in the spirit world. Unfortunately, as Arthur leaves, he looks back in his father, resulting in Uther having the ability to leave the spirit world and visit Camelot.

Uther’s ghost is a far cry from King Uther, a troublesome spirit intent on having Camelot ruled the way he used to. After doors fly open, a chandelier falls, and other strange events happen, Merlin realizes Uther is haunting the castle. Arthur is not convinced until Uther’s spirit goes after Guinevere, trapping her, throwing things at her, and trying to burn her. Fortunately, Gaius has a potion Merlin and Arthur can drink to help them defeat Uther.

In the final battle, two key things happen. First, and only after Arthur is knocked unconscious, Merlin stands up to Uther, who laughs at him as a servant boy until Merlin reveals he has magic and tells him he was always wrong about magic. I loved this scene where Colin Morgan’s eyes flare and he steps into his power (just as happened when he revealed his magic to Agrivaine last season). Arthur rejoins the battle and blows the horn to send Uther back to the spirit world. Uther tries to warn him that Merlin has magic, but the horn’s sound drowns out his words. Merlin’s secret is safe still. But, secondly, it is key that Arthur has confirmed he will not live in his father’s shadow. He tells Uther he had his chance to rule, and now it is Arthur’s turn.

Although this episode is not tied to the bigger overarching plot of the Arthur-Morgana conflict, I think it is a key scene because it shows Arthur thinking for himself and I suspect it is hinting toward the time when Merlin will be able to reveal to Arthur that he does have magic.

SyFy, in advertising this episode, made a point of talking about the bromance between Arthur and Merlin in this episode. Many fans want to believe there is some gay erotica going on here, but I think it is clearly Merlin’s loyalty to Arthur that makes him affectionate toward him. If they were not master and servant, wizard and king opposed to magic, they would be able to express themselves more clearly to one another, but all the tension and magic would be lost. It’s so much more fun watching Arthur hit Merlin and then claim it’s horseplay.

Bring on the last 10 episodes of the series. I will be watching. Who knows? Maybe this time the story of Camelot will have a happy ending.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. He is currently working on a series of novels about Arthur’s descendants. You can visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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This post is a follow-up to my previous post on the first episode of the new season 5 of Merlin. The first and second episodes together make up the “Arthur’s Bane” story.

MerlinTVshowThis second episode was far more effective and action-packed than the first. Guinevere proves herself less hard-hearted than we expected, admitting to Gaius that she will not kill Sefa but use her to lure her father to Camelot since he is the real threat. In this strategy, Guinevere is successful. The father manages to free Sefa but is wounded in the process and although they escape from Camelot, he dies immediately after while Sefa flees. I suspect Sefa will show up in a later episode this season.

I did not mention in my last post anything about the strange luminous looking being that cares for Gawain and which many bloggers and commenters have mocked as being an E.T. creature – the creature does look extra-terrestrial, but no real resemblance to E.T. itself. It turns out this creature is the Key to all Knowledge that Morgana seeks. It is the last of its kind and it tells Merlin that he can ask any questions he wants, but after it informs Merlin that knowledge is both a blessing and a curse, he decides it best not to ask any questions, then changes his mind and asks if Mordred is not Arthur’s Bane then who is, for earlier Arthur’s Bane had been prophesied as his downfall. The creature replies that it is Arthur himself.

I love this detail, and it is the kind of detail that Merlin pulls off so successfully, not always giving us what is expected but rising above into metaphor and mystery. Of course, the psychological outdoes the dramatic in the series – Arthur will be his own downfall, just as anyone can choose whether or not to let circumstances or his own flaws defeat him. We will have to wait to see how Arthur is his own bane – will Merlin’s vision of Mordred slaying Arthur turn out to be true, or can it be changed and Arthur’s fall will come about another way – will the series choose to change the tragic ending of the legend or be traditional instead?

The biggest shock in this episode suggests a leaning toward the traditional storyline. Morgana, about to destroy Arthur when she finds him in the caverns beneath Ismere, is stabbed in the back by Mordred in a shocking twist of events. The result is that Merlin is surprised that Mordred saves Arthur – leading to his question of who is really Arthur’s bane – and Arthur has Mordred accompany him back to Camelot where Mordred is rewarded by being made a knight. First, let me point out here that Merlin has saved Arthur plenty of times but no knighthood has ever been installed upon him. Secondly, Mordred is a member of Arthur’s court now, as is typical in the legend (although not Arthur’s son or nephew in this series) and consequently, we can assume that perhaps Mordred will now try to bring about the fall of Camelot from within.

In the final scene, we see Morgana and her dragon making their way through the snow near Ismere. She has apparently survived Mordred’s attack – a strange moment because she clearly seemed to be dead when Mordred stabbed her, and one would think Arthur would have made certain she was dead and seen her body burnt or buried, or have sought to help her if she were still alive (after all, she is his sister). The series’ need to keep Morgana alive is understandable, but no explanation given of how she survived or why her body was not disposed of is a bit of a stretch.

As for the dragon, questions are left open. Merlin earlier tried to stop the dragon from attacking and is surprised when the young dragon cannot speak, finally asking the dragon who has done this to him since the older dragon in the series always speaks. Did Morgana cut out the dragon’s tongue or make him unable to speak, and if so, why would she do so? While she and the dragon are both part of the Old Religion, Morgana leads the dragon on a leash, clearly not respecting him but treating him like a pet for her own purposes. We shall just have to wait to see how these two characters will resurface and whether they will ally themselves with Mordred in a future episode. I’ve learned to expect anything from this series.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. He is currently working on a series of novels about Arthur’s descendants. You can visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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Season 5 of the hit series Merlin premiered on Sy Fy last night (BBC viewers have already seen the entire season). Fortunately, I’ve avoided all the spoiler sites before viewing this season. I haven’t been so excited about a season premiere in years since this will be the last season of Merlin and it’s been my favorite television show since the cancellation of The Lost World (that’s another Arthurian blog for the future). All that said, I was a bit disappointed in this season premiere, although I did a good job of setting up the rest of the season, which I trust will just continue to build.

MerlinTVshowAs usual, there was plenty of repartee between Merlin and Arthur. The series is worth watching if only to watch the interaction between these two characters. Colin Morgan is a fabulous actor and his character really came into his own at the end of last season when he openly demonstrated his magic to Agravaine. Bradley James also plays his somewhat stuck-up Arthur quite well. These two characters did not disappoint at all.

The season opens after three years of peace in Camelot, followed by the disappearance of Gwain (why isn’t his name spelled Gawain in the series?), Percival, and several other knights on a mission. Arthur sets out to find the knights. Gawain and Percival are revealed to the viewer as imprisoned in a dark cave with the others, apparently being forced to pound rocks and do hard labor – although I noticed it couldn’t be too hard since their hair was still combed perfectly and they were devoid of sweat. I won’t give away much more of the plot. Arthur and Merlin have yet to find Gwain and company when the episode ends.

Then there was a young serving girl at Camelot named Sefa who seemed to have eyes for Merlin. She and Gwen become friends, but she is also the daughter of a sorcerer so she ultimately betrays Guinevere and Camelot’s trust. When Guinevere discovers this, since Arthur is away seeking Gwain, she sentences Sefa to death. Clearly, the viewer is to be stunned by Guinevere’s harshness, and Gaius appears surprised from the expression on his face. What is up with Guinevere’s lack of humanity? She is following the rules of Camelot, but considering her own father was burnt at the stake by Arthur’s father, you would think she’d be a bit more sympathetic (I never have figured out why she stuck around Camelot after that happened; I’d have left rather than marry the son of my father’s murderer – I’ve never been a fan of Uther in the series) – that said, Guinevere assumes Sefa’s father is siding with Morgana, who is a threat to everyone at Camelot. This scene suggests something major is going to happen with Guinevere this season – we will have to wait and see. Throughout the series (no offense to Angel Coulby’s acting skills; it’s the weakness of the script at fault), Guinevere has been the least appealing character, having no real chemistry with Arthur and being somewhat unbelievable as his love interest considering she is a serving maid. And while I’m all for multiculturalism, we never have had an explanation for why Guinevere and her family are the only black people in Camelot – where did they come from? I am hoping there is some mystery about Guinevere’s past, perhaps one even she does not know, that will be revealed before the season is over.

Finally, for me the highlight of this entire episode was the appearance of Mordred at the end, no longer a boy, but a young man, and still in alliance with Morgana. When Merlin and Arthur are captured and their death appears imminent, Mordred appears, making certain their lives are spared, at least temporarily, so he can bring them to Morgana.

As for what happens next, we must wait but the previews for the future episodes look fabulous. Will magic and the old religion ultimately prevail – a part of me seriously hopes so, but regardless, I’m sure Morgana will be defeated (poor Morgana, most interesting character in the show, most misunderstood – but someone has to be the villain). For magic and the old religion to be restored, it will take Merlin revealing his secret of having magic to Arthur. And since Merlin in this episode had a dream that Mordred would slay Arthur, I don’t foresee a happy ending. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see how the rest of this season plays out. Will the legend’s ending be changed? Even if a happy ending is created for the series, the end of the best Arthurian television series ever will be a sad one.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. He is currently working on a series of novels about Arthur’s descendants. You can visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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