The Hollow Hills

by Mary Stewart

Hardcover, 1973

Call number




William Morrow & Co (1973), 499 pages


Fantasy. Fiction. HTML: The spellbinding, suspenseful story of how Merlin, the Enchanter, helped Arthur become the king of all Britain�a magnificent novel set in a time when no life is safe, no law stable Keeping watch over the young Arthur Pendragon, the prince and prophet Merlin Ambrosius is haunted by dreams of the magical sword Caliburn, which has been hidden for centuries. When Uther Pendragon is killed in battle, the time of destiny is at hand, and Arthur must claim the fabled sword to become the true High King of Britain. The prophetic voice of Merlin communicates not only the bristling atmosphere of the story's ancient setting but also its profound relevance to our own time. Once again, as she did in her bestselling The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart provides a glowing re-creation of pre-Camelot England..… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member thelorelei
Merlin Ambrosius as written by Mary Stewart may be one of my favorite narrators. There is immense pleasure in how calm, intense, and sharp he is, and it gives an interesting edge to the narrative, because he isn't the type to spill his secrets in the narration. There is plenty of suspense in how he
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will solve each seemingly impossible conundrum as it comes his way. This sequel to "The Crystal Cave" picks up almost immediately after the events of the first book, with Merlin making his way back to his home and nursing his wounds from the fight at Tintagel. Once again there is incredible attention to period detail, which suffuses the entire book with a sense of authenticity. The Dark Ages of Britain are brought to roiling life once again.
What I really enjoy about Stewart's writing is that even though I am fairly familiar with the events of Arthurian legend (especially all of the tragic twists and turns), she puts her own spin on them to make sense for her narrative, and still manages to imbue the book and characters with a strong sense of hope in the future. When Arthur takes an accidental step that seals his fate, it twists in the reader like a knife, even though we all know how the story has to end, and we all know what has to happen for the story to be an adequate interpretation of Arthurian legend. The author's skill is in making us come along for the ride, invested with all our heart, despite our knowledge of legend.
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LibraryThing member memccauley6
The second book in Mary Stewart’s series tells the story of Merlin as he watches over Arthur from his birth until his ascension to the High King of Britain as a teen. I really like this “old school” fantasy with no graphic sex or violence and the way it portrays Merlin as a thinking, feeling,
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vulnerable person who truly loves his cousin Arthur like a son, not just the forbidding old sorcerer featured in other Arthurian tales.
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LibraryThing member 2chances
So we're carrying on with the Arthurian legend in elegant Mary-Stewart style. The Hollow Hills picks up where The Crystal Cave left off; Merlin, having maneuvered Uther and Ygraine into conceiving Arthur, is nursing wounds both physical and psychic. The mystical force that drove him seems to have
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deserted him, but much remains to be done if young Arthur is to survive and become King. As always, Stewart manages the magical elements of the Arthurian legend (Arthur's fostering with Count Ector, the Lake which holds the great sword Excalibur, and the mystical Sword in the Stone) with great skill, giving them plausibility without either making them ridiculous or stripping them of magic altogether - a tricky tightrope to walk.

And also as always, her characters are engaging and believable, their actions making far more sense in Stewart's world than in Malory's.
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LibraryThing member Elpaca
Love the whole trilogy.
LibraryThing member TadAD
I found the first novel magical (no pun intended). This one took a step back toward "another Arthurian saga." Still worth reading, just not as good as the The Crystal Cave.
LibraryThing member mtruong
I read 179 pages. I stopped reading this book because it had old English and I did not understand many words that was in the book. I also did not get the story because it continues and I did not read the book before this book.
LibraryThing member arthos
Picks up exactly where The Crystal Cave left off, on the morning after Arthur's conception. It is in one sense about Arthur's infancy and childhood, with the action all leading toward his revelation as rightful king. But Arthur actually only plays a bit part. The book is really about Merlin.

As a
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story, this one is not as strong as The Crystal Cave. Remarkably little actually happens; it leaves one more with an impression of the atmosphere than the happenings.

Both books paint what seems to me a very good picture of subroman Britain. The portrayal is historically accurate, as far as I can tell, considerably more so than most books about the Matter of Britain.
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LibraryThing member maryh10000
Mary Stewart's books will always be my view of Merlin.
LibraryThing member jewels1864
Although I enjoyed reading this book, I liked The Crystal Cave more. The pace seemed slower in the beginning and I didn't feel drawn in to the story until the last 150 pages or so. Much of the storyline could fit under the title of part 1, Waiting, because it felt like that's what I was doing,
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waiting until Arthur was crowned king. Like I said, though, it was a good book and no doubt has set the stage for a great third one.

Having never read any books on the Arthurian legend, I am enjoying learning both the historical and mythical aspects of the story and am intrigued by the view of Merlin as not simply a common magician with 'showy' magic but whose power comes from will of the 'gods'. I also find the time period particularly interesting concerning how the country was undergoing a religious conversion from pagan beliefs to Christianity and all the social and political adaptations that were byproducts of this shift.
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LibraryThing member Steph78
The Hollow Hills continued the story where the Crystal Cave leaves off, and continues until the crowning of King Arthur. While I enjoyed the book, this one did not live up to my memories of reading it as a teenager. The pace was not quite so smooth as the first book and while all the characters
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were well imagined, the development seemed to progress in fits and starts. I wasn't too keen on the cast on female characters either. All in all an enjoyable book though, and I'm looking forward to reading the final part.
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LibraryThing member jepeters333
Arthur is raised by Ector. At the end takes the sword out of the stone.
LibraryThing member willowcove
Classic must-read series that gives a more realistic view of Merlin.
LibraryThing member beckykolacki
This book was a sequel to The Crystal Cave. It many ways my opinion about the two books is very similar. Like the first one, I felt that The Hollow Hills starts out really slowly, and doesn't pick up much speed or get all that interesting until you are more than halfway through it.

Though this
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series is about the life of Merlin, Stewart doesn't exactly give Merlin the most exciting life imaginable. Though he does travel, he also spends a good deal of time on his own, in his cave or living as a hermit. Because of this the most exciting parts of the novel are when he is interacting with young Arthur, who doesn't make an appearance right away.

However, there are some good aspects to this book as well. For all that the beginning lacks, the second half is extremely interesting and exciting. If you have any knowledge of the legends of King Arthur you'll have a pretty good idea of what is going to happen, but it's interesting to see it through Merlin's eyes.
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LibraryThing member Condorena
Merlin believes that his main purpose in life is to bring into the world and then bring into power a man who can truly unite Britain. He is convinced this purpose is why he has been given his magical powers from God in the first place. This is the basic story of THE HOLLOW HILLS. The great warriors
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Ambrosius, Merlin's father and Uther Pendragon , his uncle have paved the way for a new era and Arthur, Uther's son steps up with all the qualities appropriate for a great leader .

Mary Stewart makes it all seem so real, as if it were truly a history of the past that she is reciting. I am enjoying this series tremendously.
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LibraryThing member MerryMary
Stewart's Merlin books touch something magical in me. The magic is there, but the characters (all or most drawn from what few facts there are about this period)are human and believable. This book doesn't rely on special effects. It relies on solid plot construction and lyrical writing.
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
2nd book in the Merlin trilogy - _The Crystal Cave_ being #1, _The Last Enchantment_ bringing up the rear. Stewart has created a lovely Arhurian history of how Merlin influenced everything that happened. A unique perspective.
LibraryThing member TLMorganfield
Slow starting and seemed to drag a bit through the first two sections, but picks up nicely after that.
LibraryThing member Jean_Sexton
This second entry in Stewart's Arthurian series picks up the story in more familiar territory. In many ways, when you put down The Crystal Cave and pick up The Hollow Hills, it is simply a straight continuation. This covers from the birth or Arthur to his becoming king. All the seeds are sown for
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the politics behind the continuing story, including Mordred. What is different in this book is the focus on Merlin -- where he goes, what he does while Arthur is growing up. There are different takes on iconic objects -- the sword in the stone is quite different, but so logical, for example.

If you enjoy Arthurian literature and haven't read this series, you really should. I think you'll love it.
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LibraryThing member electrascaife
The second book in a series dealing with Merlin and Arthur, this one is solid and entertaining enough. I do love Stewart's Merlin, but the story did drag in parts. Definitely enjoyable, but not as magical as reading Malory or The Mabinogion, I think.
LibraryThing member antiquary
This is the second of Stewart's Merlin series, retelling the Arthur legends from the first-person viewpoint of Merlin. It makes some effort towards a realistic late Romano-British setting, though Merlin also has "the Sight" and sometimes believes himself to be acting on behalf of the gods, notably
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when he brings Uther to Igraine to beget Arthur, an event which has just happened the night before the beginning of this volume. It covers Merlin's involvement in Arthurs' upbringing, ending with Arthur's taking the throne. Since the book runs almost 500 pages, this means the action is rather slow-motion, though Stewart is a competent writer with much previous experience of writing modern adventure novels. .
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LibraryThing member MartinaL
Great series
LibraryThing member reading_fox
Not as fresh as the first in the series, but still inventive and fun. Merlin is now 20 or so and we start the wait for Arthur to grow old enough to become King and lift the Sword.

The tale picks up immediately from the end of Crystal Cave which I wasn't expecting, but quickly skips a few years,
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once a safe foster home is worked out. Merlin wonders around a lot, trying not to become tied to the location that Arthur is hidden. One of the drawbacks of this middle trilogy book, is that nothing really happens, we know what we're expecting to happen, and just waiting for enough time to pass until it does. There's very limited amount of suspense that can be induced and mortal danger to any of the protagonists is precluded.

There's a little bit of politicking and some Kings, petty and otherwise of territories we don't care about jostling for rank and status, but its all forgettable. Women make a slight appearance in that Uther has two daughters, Morgon and Morguese, and their fates will tie into arthurs in the future - and the first of the knights of the round table are mentioned, although not at clear that this telling will feature them. There's a hidden sword which merlin finds and hides and reveals to Arthur, again on drama, but cleverly done just about in keeping with the popular traditions, but reworked uniquely and believably within the previously set limits of this universe.

By no means bad, and certainly compelling enough to continue with the series, just lacking some action.
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LibraryThing member jamestomasino
See comment on The Crystal Cave. This trilogy should be read all at once. It's not very long.
LibraryThing member kslade
Another in the series I read a long time age. Arthur, Merlin, etc.
LibraryThing member Jthierer
This is a product of its times so content warning for some troubling attitudes about sexuality and women. That said, I loved this series when I first read it in high school and I'm still loving it as I revisit as an adult. I love how Stewart provides non-magical explanations for most of the
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legendary aspects of the story without completely eliminating Merlin's power. It makes for a world that feels simultaneously real and magical.
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Mythopoeic Awards (Finalist — 1974)
Best Fiction for Young Adults (Selection — 1973)




0688001793 / 9780688001797
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