The Last Enchantment

by Mary Stewart

Other authorsMorrow (Editor), Jacket by Allen Hood (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 1979

Call number




William Morrow & Co (1979), Edition: 1, 538 pages


Arthur Pendragon is King! Unchallenged on the battlefield, he melds the country together in a time of promise. But sinister powers plot to destroy Camelot, and when the witch-queen Morgause -- Arthur's own half sister -- ensnares him in an incestuous liaison, a fatal web of love, betrayal, and bloody vengeance is woven.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Jean_Sexton
While this isn't the last of the Arthurian series, it is the end of the Merlin trilogy. This book picks up where The Hollow Hills ends.

I liked the more human Arthur (as opposed to the shining king of legend). I also like how he matures and grows into the king Merlin believed he could be. It was
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nice to see that he has his own wisdom and insights.

Ah, but Merlin. When I was younger, I pitied the older Merlin. Now, I see him looking back over his life and he lived it fully. There are tears, but there is also joy.

This look at the Arthurian mythos was unique in its time. I believe it has aged well and have enjoyed re-reading it decades after I last did.

Just go ahead and get the books!
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LibraryThing member 2chances
I must say, I do like series books where the next book picks up a heartbeat after the last book ended. As The Lsat Enchantment opens, Arthur has just been crowned, and Merlin is deputed to deal with Morgause's incestuous pregnancy with Mordred, Arthur's bastard son/nephew, who will ultimately bring
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about Arthur's death.

The Last Enchantment is perhaps slightly less interesting than the previous two books; all the big events have already happened, and Stewart has less legend to draw on. But there are a couple of terrific parts to this installment: Arthur's marriage to Guenevere, the Arthur/Guenevere/Lancelot triangle (in this version, Arthur's childhood friend Bedwyr fills the Lancelot role, which is good - I couldn't take anyone named "Lancelot" seriously - it's just too much like a joke about male genitalia), and the Merlin/Nimue story. Stewart handles all these iconic events with her usual skill; far from being predictable and blunted by their mythical draperies, they seem fresh, resonant and nuanced. I particularly liked how Stewart managed Merlin's "enchanted death", the sealing-up alive by the enchantress Nimue from Arthurian legend; as always, she invests it with enough real-life elements to give it plausibility, while retaining enough magic to enthrall the reader.

Also, sad to say, the series should have ended here. Stewart wrote one more - The Wicked Day - and she would have done well to have refrained. The central character, and the emotional heart, of this series is Merlin himself; he is barely a cameo in The Wicked Day, and the book suffers proportionately.
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LibraryThing member maryh10000
Mary Stewart's books will always be my view of Merlin.
LibraryThing member thelorelei
This conclusion to Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy is every bit as well-written and gripping as the first two (It is my understanding that there is a fourth book, but that it is from the point of view of Mordred, rather than Merlin).
In "The Last Enchantment," Merlin experiences the erratic wane of
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his days of power. Since he has achieved what his gods have willed for him in setting Arthur safely upon the throne, he knows that his part to play is in its twilight. And though his power comes and goes, the long span of his days of glory have accrued him the respect of Arthur and his subjects, as well as the undying enmity of Arthur's enemies.
In this installment we see the famous events of Arthur's adulthood: Camelot, Guinevere, The Lady of the Lake, etc. Mary Stewart's gift, however, is that she writes these people and events as if they belong to her alone. It is only after reading a certain passage that I would realize she had just set up a major legendary plot-point. She writes her characters as real people with histories and full personalities, not as figments of legend. I think Stewart may have ruined me for any other interpretation of Arthurian legend. This series is THAT good. Her period and legend research is spot-on, and obviously informs the richness of detail with which she infuses her story.
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LibraryThing member TadAD
As with The Hollow Hills, it didn't quite live up to the first volume for me. Once Arthur enters the picture, there is an element of "I've read this story 100 times." Taken as a whole, I think the trilogy is just a decent telling of the Arthurian saga, whereas the first book alone is an extremely
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good telling of Merlin's story.
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LibraryThing member Scaryguy
Stewart's well-written story of Merlin. A classic. Read it!
LibraryThing member jepeters333
Arthur becomes king; Merlin is presumed dead; Mordred shows up.
LibraryThing member willowcove
Classic must-read series that gives a more realistic view of Merlin.
LibraryThing member jimmaclachlan
I don't think this is the correct edition. Mine isn't abridged, but I didn't see the correct one. I think the reader is correct & very good. An excellent end to the trilogy. I know Stewart added another book years later & while I have read it once, I don't really want to listen to it. This is
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LibraryThing member engpunk77
The best in the series!
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
3rd book in the Merlin trilogy - _The Crystal Cave_ being #1, _The Hollow Hills_ in the middle. Stewart has created a lovely Arhurian history of how Merlin influenced everything that happened. A unique perspective.
LibraryThing member memccauley6
The last installment in Stewart’s Arthurian trilogy was a bit too prosaic for my taste. While some of her interpretations of the legend were very interesting, such as there being two wives named Guinevere… Dare I say it? I found the whole thing downright boring and had to force myself to
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finish. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “The Mists of Avalon” is still my favorite version of the legend.
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LibraryThing member MartinaL
Great series
LibraryThing member pierthinker
The Last Enchantment is the final volume in Mary Stewart’s trilogy retelling the Arthurian legend through the eyes of and in the voice of Merlin the magician. The book opens as Arthur is acclaimed King and begins a long war against Saxon enemies for control of Britain. We see little of this as
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our focus is on Merlin and his much more subtle battle with other enemies; minor kings and warlords looking to extend their power, but principally the dark witch Morgause, half-sister to Arthur.

The book is steeped in wonderfully detailed descriptions of nature in Dark Ages Britain and in the evocation of ancient myths (think Lord of the Rings, but better written). Characters are sympathetically drawn and leap out as fully realised people, with lives and emotions. Action is focused on the way Merlin’s prophesies come to be fulfilled and often show how quiet simple lives carry as much weight as grand events. Stewart often glides over major action scenes and rarely indulges in the kind of full-on goriness so popular today.

This is a magnificent book. A timeless story told with humour and a level of detail grounding the enterprise in reality. An optimistic view of human endeavour, and what is wrong with that?
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LibraryThing member reading_fox
Arthur has come of age and reigns as High King. His trusted boyhood companion Merlin is there by his side when needed, and retreats to his cave whenever else. This being Merlin's tale means we don't see a lot of Arthur's action. But Merlin himself is growing older (40 isn't that old!) and
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prophecies still have to come to pass.

Arthur has a few final battles to chase out the last of the Saxons, but Merlin knows those will go ok, and leaves him to it. A far greater concern is Arthur's wife. I was unaware that the arthurian canon generally had at least two Gwuinaveres in it, although it seems to be commonplace in the time for women to die in childbirth and be replaced with a younger wife. At least he's serially monogamous, unlike many of his fllow petty kings. The plot such as it is, is still slow. Morguesse his half-sister is still hunting for power, but she's mostly exiled to the Orkneys raising Lots children, (and Modred). His full sister Morgan started out sweet but somewhere un-specified along the line becomes corrupted by Morguesse, and there's several events that needed a lot more details, but were just skimmed over. Again in the afterwards that author refers to cannonical sources , but they aren't part of the tales I knew.

Equally disappointing is the round table and the Companions, although I feel this maybe reserved for the next book, they are mentioned here and there, but there's no details. Some of the quests we'd expect to have occurred are mentioned only upon completion and again without any story telling or drama. Most of the latter half the book is taken up with Niume, the Lady of the lake, Merlin's infatuation with her (despite his gods' restrictions - although these apparently don't apply to her even though she's using the same powers). As Merlin's connection to the gods weaken so does his health and he suffers several relapses (epileptic fits? again not the lore I know) which eventually bring about the prologue from the first book. It feels very much as if this was intended to be the end of the trilogy, although of course as above many events are left unresolved.

It is wonderful evocative writing, clear, easy to follow descriptive and enjoyable with characters you can believe in, but it's still slow and very little (although there is at least some action in this) happens.
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LibraryThing member themulhern
In which Merlin, growing old and tired, finally gets to retire. Arthur's kingship is hugely assisted by the prognostications of his magicians; nothing beats being in the right place at the right time. But he also can fight in person and organize a campaign like nobody's business.




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