The Hollow Hills

When I started this one, Hubby commented that it was his favorite of the trilogy, mostly because Merlin goes traveling across Europe. While I liked Crystal Cave because I liked the Merlin that Stewart created, I liked this one primarily because this is my favorite part of the Arthurian legend. That, and Merlin goes a-traveling, which is always fun, too.

The Hollow Hills picks up right after the fateful night of Arthur’s conception, with Merlin limping back to his home in the cave in Wales. He’s servant-less for a while (which was mildly amusing; Merlin is just incapable of taking care of himself), but eventually gains a reluctant servant in Ralf, when he’s banished from the King’s (and by now Queen’s) presence, mostly for his role in that fateful night. Eventually, the Queen (and King) call Merlin to them and ask him for his help in taking care of Arthur and making sure Arthur is safe. Merlin, of course, makes the arrangements, and then, possibly to add mystery to the tale and most definitely to misdirect his (and Arthur’s) enemies, he takes off for the mainland of Europe, traveling to all the big cities. It’s not a large part of the novel, but it is an enjoyable one.

Once he deems it safe — well, actually because King Uther is dying and Merlin is who he is — Merlin heads back to Britain. He takes up residence in the Wild Forest, near where Arthur is being fostered, and takes over the mentoring of Arthur. I love this part; basically the last third of the book when Arthur himself enters the story. It’s the stuff legends are made of (well, duh): a strong-willed, energetic boy, learning all he can from an older, wiser man and then that boy somehow making himself worthy to become what he truly is… a King.

I did have some quibbles with this one, most notably with Morgause. I think I like Marion Zimmer Bradley’s treatment of the women better (as well I should, since Mists of Avalon is a pretty feminist-slanted work). While I recognize that Stewart was trying to be as faithful to history, giving men all the “power” and shunting the women off to the side (Merlin’s mother, Ninane wasn’t terribly well portrayed, though she wasn’t as weak as Ygraine), it still grated on me how Morgause, from pretty much the get-go was portrayed as a power-hungry, evil woman. Perhaps she was. (Perhaps she didn’t even exist.) But, I prefer Bradley’s interpretation of the women.

Aside from that (and that’s really only the last chapters), it’s a thoroughly enjoyable book. I still like Merlin as a character, and I think Stewart’s aging him nicely. I like that his character feels different in this book than he did in the last one: more mature, weightier, as he comes into the power and reason for existing that he’s been waiting for his whole life. He’s still portrayed as an imperfect human, but she draws more heavily on the prophecy and Sight aspects of Merlin’s character. Because of this, he’s beginning to take on the role that he’s known for best: that of Arthur’s right-hand, as well as prophet and enchanter. Even with all this, though, Merlin’s still a sympathetic character, as well as an understandable one.

Only one more book to go.

6 thoughts on “The Hollow Hills

  1. I’m really looking forward to reading this series. Like you, I’m a fan of The Mists of Avalon and of the way Marion Zimmer Bradley portrays women, so it’s likely that I’ll have similar feelings about Morgause in this book. But the book does sound very much worth reading regardless. Thanks for the thoughtful review!


  2. I loved Mists of Avalon, and this series too. I think Hollow Hills was my favorite, also. I’ve read them a few times, but it’s been several years so I was glad to revisit the story via your review. Thanks!


  3. I need to re-read this series it is so good. I know what you mean about the female characters, I love The Avalon series and they make nice counterpoints to each other.


  4. did you know that there is a fourth book in thise series? it was written a bit after the others and is not narrated the same, but it’s basically mordred’s story and what happens between him and arthur. because of the narration change it’s a little bit jarring in the beginning if you read it in succession with the other three, but i remember thinking it fit really well with the rest. of course it’s been a few years since i’ve read these. but if you wanted to round out the saga, i’d recommend it!


  5. Veronica — I did know that. I’ve read it, a long time ago, and I remember that while I thought it worked okay, I remember not being as impressed with it. So much that when we got rid of the paperbacks and bought them in hardback, we didn’t bother with the fourth. That’s also the reason why I’m not planning on rereading it…


  6. Anonymous says:

    The hollow hills was to me was an alright book. I’m not finished with it, but I’m almost. I like Merlin’s character and Ygraine’s. In the beginning of the book, the saddest part is when she had to give up Arthur. So far, I’m liking it. Don’t tell me what happens next. I’m looking forward to finishing it. I wonder how its going to end.


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