by Peter Joseph Swanson
The Arthurian legend is a subject that's been around so long that there are all sorts of adaptations of it from realistic takes like Bernard Cornwell's "Warlord Trilogy" to musicals like Camelot to cartoons like Disney's "Sword in the Stone." "Merlin's Charge" falls on the "Sword in the Stone" end of the spectrum. It's a lot of whimsical, lighthearted fun, though not quite as campy as the Disney movie.
The story takes place in the 5th Century when he Roman Empire is fallen. A terrible drought has taken hold of Britain. Mother Hubbard is looking after a group of children, using her magic to lay eggs for them after their magic cauldron was stolen. Meanwhile, teenage Arthur is under the tutelage of the grumpy old wizard Merlin, learning what it's going to take to become king after he pulled the sword from the stone.
Eventually Mother Hubbard is arrested by the Church for being a witch and set to be burned at the stake. Arthur pleads with Merlin to save her, which he does, though he has another purpose in mind--making Mother Hubbard his wife because even wizards need some company in bed.
When they compare notes, Mother Hubbard and Merlin decide they should try to find the cauldron, otherwise known as the grail. Joining them in the quest are Parsifal, son of a Roman general, and a corrupt abbot of the Church, whose primarily function is to go around declaring everything evil.
The book isn't very long; it only took me a few hours to read it on my Kindle. A lot of it is spent talking, which is good in some ways because it means no windy passages of description, although a few more descriptions might have been helpful sometimes. I think what surprised me the most was that despite being called MERLIN'S Charge, Merlin is largely absent from the grand finale.
Still, if you're a fan of Arthurian legend, especially "The Sword in the Stone" then you'll enjoy this hilarious new take on the subject.
That is all.