Celtika by

ISBN:0671028820
Book 1 of The Merlin Codex;
See also: RobertHoldstock.com ; LibraryThing ; Crow’s Nest ; The Once Upon a Time Reading Challenge

I was neither a stranger in this territory, nor familiar with it. The last time I had passed this way, the route into the wilderness of forest and snow that was the northern land of Pohjola had been an open gorge, guarded by nothing more sinister than white foxes, chattering mink and dark-winged carrion birds.

Image of CeltikaI suppose that you are thinking that a series entitled The Merlin Codex might be about the Merlin of the Arthurian legend. If so, and you are expecting Camelot to make an appearance in this book, you are in for a surprise. Yes, the main protagonist is Merlin, but he isn’t the character you might have expected. Instead, although very old he is also quite young. In appearance at least. And instead of serving or advising Kind Arthur he travels with Jason of the Greek myths. The book is set hundreds of years after the quest for the Golden Fleece, and the love affair with Medea and the resulting tragedy, but Jason is not dead. He has been kept in a sort of suspended non-life by the magic of his ship, the Argus, and now Merlin has returned to bring him back to life. Merlin, you see, has discovered that Medea did not actually kill her two sons.

I wasn’t impressed with the first half of this book. I wasn’t too fond of any of the characters and it all seemed a bit messy. But I stuck with it. And I’m glad I did, but the second half the plot had come together a little more and I was a lot more involved in the story line. I still didn’t find any characters to love, but the storyline did enough to keep me interested and entertained.

I think the main problem I had in the start was the fact that Holdstock is combining may different myths and legends, Celtic and Greek for the most part, and I kept trying to identify the different strands. But as I got further into the book I was more content to try and forget about the myth and just read the book. Although the fight between Urtha and Cuanmaglos (I know I’ve got that last name wrong) did remind me of the fight between Cúchulainn and Ferdia.

In conclusion, I’m not sure I enjoyed this book, but I do think I’ll read on in the series, if only to find some answers to what exactly is going on here.

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4 Responses

  1. Carl V. says:

    Interesting review, not sure I'd have the fortitude to go on with the series if I didn't find something that I loved about it. I will be interested, once you read the second one, to see if you think the writing/story/etc. have improved to the point that you are more invested in it.

  2. Fence says:

    Carl, it wasn't that I hated anything about it, it simply didn't grip me. Until well into the second half. I still didn't love it, but there was more to like :)

  3. Court says:

    I'm actually in the middle of the second book in the series right now. I have to admit that Jason got on my nerves so much in Celtika (not sure what I think of him right now as he hasn't been in it too much yet), but love Urtha… and the mixing of the mythology was a little bit confusing if you tried to analyze it too much, yes, but on it's own, I enjoyed it. It's looking like the second book will be about the same level of enjoyment as long as I don't analyze it.

  4. Kailana says:

    I have this book on my list to read. One of these days…