Title: Merlin’s Harp
Author: Anne Eliot Crompton
Release Date: March 1, 2010
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Fantasy, Teen/YA
Rating: 3 out of 5
Niviene is a fairy (called a Fey in this novel) and is the daughter of the Lady, living on the famed Apple Island, known to humans as Avalon. She doesn’t think she’ll ever have anything to do with humans, but little does she know her destiny is intertwined with Arthur, Gwenevere, Lancelot and the half-fey Merlin.
I’m a huge fan of Arthurian literature, so when I head about Merlin’s Harp, I immediately jumped at the chance to read it. I love reading new interpretations of these legends, especially when told from a woman’s perspective. However, I didn’t enjoy Merlin’s Harp as much as I’d hoped; though the premise was unique, the story ended up falling flat for me.
As the daughter of the Lady, Niviene has a singular perspective from which to tell this story. Additionally, the way Crompton chose to include different elements of the Arthurian legend, from the kidnapping of Guinevere by Melwas to the identities of Lancelot and Elaine, were very creative. She clearly knows these legends well, and took enough liberties with them to make the story her own, but kept them recognizable to someone who is familiar with the tales. The result is a unique and interesting twist on Arthurian lore.
However, the book also had some issues as well. The world-building in Merlin’s Harp is very sketchy. Crompton never seems to fully flesh out the Fey world, leaving readers confused and foggy, unable to picture what is going on in their heads. Additionally, there is little character development in the novel. Niviene isn’t necessarily a flat character, she just holds the reader at an arm’s length such that they don’t really get a sense of her. While both of these decisions were likely conscious on the author’s part, to keep up a semblance of mystery and aloofness about the Fey, it didn’t work well for me and made me lose interest in the novel.
Merlin’s Harp is a creative novel that had a lot of potential, but it didn’t satisfy me. However, the Amazon.com reviews are very positive, so if the novel piques your interest, you should give it a try – it might work for you!