The Crystal Cave : The Arthurian Saga

  • by Mary Stewart
  • Narrated by Derek Perkins
  • Series: The Arthurian Saga
  • 16 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Born the bastard son of a Welsh princess, Myrdden Emrys - or as he would later be known, Merlin - leads a perilous childhood, haunted by portents and visions. But destiny has great plans for this no-man's-son, taking him from prophesying before High King Vortigern to the crowning of Uther Pendragon, and the conception of Arthur, king for once and always.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Been waiting for this for decades

If you could sum up The Crystal Cave in three words, what would they be?

Timeless, enthralling, mesmerizing.


What did you like best about this story?

The Crystal Cave tells the story of Merlin unlike any other version. Mary Stewart brings Merlin to life in a way that is not just magical and mystical, making them real-life figures in a way that other Merlin tales have not been able to do.


What does Derek Perkins bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Excellent narrator who drew me into a story that I am extremely familiar with. I first read this book in 1972 and have reread it more times than I can remember. I've been waiting for the audible version for decades and was thrilled that Perkins narration did not detract from the voice of Merlin that has been in my head for over 40 years.


Any additional comments?

I am anxiously awaiting the second and third books in this series for a complete telling of the story! Please bring on The Hollow Hills and The Last Enchantment.

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- P

Sublime Story, Superbly Told

“The Crystal Cave” is the first and best of Mary Stewart’s classic trilogy that recasts the Arthurian legend from the point of view of Merlin. In these books, Merlin Emrys--the first-person narrator of this and the second book, "The Hollow Hills"--is not the shape-shifting wizard of “Camelot” and “The Once and Future King,” but a small (even rather weak) mortal boy, the bastard grandson of a minor Welsh king. But he does have certain paranormal gifts, notably "the Sight."

Merlin's gifts are augmented with guidance from Galapas, a hermit who guards the secrets of the Crystal Cave, an ancient shrine hidden in the hills. Immensely curious, he also studies healing arts and engineering sciences, and is eager to learn all he can of different gods and religions. By the end of the book, the young man Merlin has made use of his knowledge and gifts in ways that would certainly render him magical to his contemporaries.

Set in 5th century Britain and Normandy (Less Britain in those days), this terrific novel is neither romance (despite the brief opening scene) nor fantasy (despite Merlin's gifts of fire and prophecy) nor historical fiction (despite the presence of some historical figures such as Vortigern and Hengist). This is Britain in the 5th century AD; the Romans have left, Christianity is trying to consolidate its foothold, and the land is besieged by the Norse and the Saxons. It is a unique story that melds legend and mysticism with history as it very well could have been.

The characters, even the minor ones, are heartrendingly real. Merlin and Aurelius Ambrosius are magnificent. Derek Perkins, a narrator I’ve always enjoyed, outdoes himself. It's a rendition I didn’t want to stop listening to. Like other reviewers, I’ve been hoping to see these books come to Audible for a long time, and I’m grateful Mr. Perkins agreed to perform this one. I hope he does “The Hollow Hills” and “The Last Enchantment” as well.

"The Crystal Cave" ends with the famous story of Merlin contriving to allow Uther (who is now High King of Britain) to satisfy his obsessive passion for the married Ygraine--thus leading to the conception of Arthur. This book is an immensely satisfying read (or listen) by itself, although you'll probably want to go on to "The Hollow Hills" and meet the young Arthur.

Some listeners may object that there are few female characters, and those that do appear are much in the background, but that is not really a flaw; it is both true to the period and (as you'll understand if you listen to it) intrinsic to the story as Mary Stewart tells it. It might be seen as the flip side to the feminist "The Mists of Avalon," but "The Crystal Cave" (with apologies to "Mist's" many fans) is the better book.
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- Carol "Genre fiction, trashy to literary--mystery, action, sci fi, fantasy, and, yes, even romance. Also history. Listener reviews help a lot!"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-03-2016
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio