A Liitle Magic Always Helps

Moving on from murderous tales and creepy characters, I’ve been watching “The Adventures of Merlin” on Netflix with flashing swords and mythic magic.

The impish young Merlin honing his magical skills in secret in the days when Arthur was a prince of Camelot and Merlin was an apprentice to the court physican, is a treat to watch. Taking more than poetic license with White’s Once and Future King (referenced by the Dragon to Merlin), the plot barely resembles either White’s post World War II tales or the original fifteenth century telling in Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur.”

This BBC version changes many pieces of the well known legend but keeps enough of a foundation to make the stories exciting and somewhat predictable. For example, Guinevere is the lowly serving girl to Morgana (still the villain and Arthur’s half/sister). Arthur loves Gwen, promising to break with tradition and marry her. Whenever Merlin’s eyes glow and he mutters a pseudo Latin or Gaelic phrase, he is the superhero we all love and wish we were.

Raluca Radulescu of Bangor University writes “…our modern appetite for fantasy {is} a reflection of our need to reinvent the past, and bring hope into our present. Moral integrity, loyalty to one’s friends and kin, abiding by the law and defending the weak, form the cornerstone of Arthurian {legend}. They offer the reassurance that doing the morally right thing is valuable, even if it may bring about temporary defeat. In the end, virtues and values prevail…”

We could all use a little hope and some moral integrity in our world these days. Watching the series has inspired me to reread or listen to some old favorites: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Mary Stewart’s The Last Enchantment. Have you read them?

A Dying Fall – a Ruth Galloway Mystery

9780547798165_p0_v1_s260x420For fans of Elly Griffiths’ archeology professor/detective, Ruth Galloway is back in A Dying Fall, the fifth of the mystery series.  Since Ruth is an expert on ancient bones, this mystery involves the possible remains of King Arthur, found by Ruth’s colleague, who has been brutally murdered in a mysterious fire just as he was on the verge of a major discovery.

All the regulars are back: Cathbad, the hippie druid; Harry Nelson, chief of police, married to a beautiful hairdresser, and father to Ruth’s daughter, Kate; as well the many minor characters who fill the space with the angst of their lives.  To remind faithful readers who they are, or to introduce them to newcomers, Griffiths painstakingly fills in their backgrounds – to the point that the plot lingers in the background too long.  When the action finally gets past the soap opera lives of the principals, you may have forgotten the reason for the investigation.

In this fifth book, Griffiths moves the action from the marshes of Norwich to Blackpool and the mystical Pendle forest.  As she continues her dead colleague’s research, Ruth and her toddler daughter become the target of the killer.  Along the way, Griffiths infuses the plot with lovely descriptions of the English surroundings…

“Beyond Ruth’s fence, the long grass is tawny and gold with the occasional flash of dark blue water as the marsh leads out to the sea. In the distance, the sand glimmers like a mirage…

Having read the first four in this series, I knew what to expect from the characters and looked forward to a new mystery to solve.  Each book seemed to be wordier than the one before, but still held suspense.  This last book is no exception.  This ending is a little far-fetched, and could have appeared many pages sooner.

Reviews of other books in the Ruth Galloway Series:

  1. The Crossing Places
  2. The Janus Stone
  3. House At Seas End
  4. A Room Full of Bones