The Lost Years (Merlin #1) – T.A. Barron

“You worry about who you are too much. Just be yourself, and you’ll find out eventually.”

Whew boy, reading some of the negative reviews for this book really makes me wonder why some adults bother reading middle grade/ya related books.

Merlin: The Lost Years is the start to Barron’s take on Merlin’s childhood, something that isn’t exactly explored in Arthurian legends and Barron himself gives some background on this in his introduction which I thought was really nice to have. I definitely feel working with something that doesn’t have a lot of previous works to go off of will give him a lot of breathing room to flesh out his take on the legendary wizard.

I flew through this book, the pacing was so quick that I found myself flying through the pages, I was addicted and wanted to know what would happen next. The world is rich and full of life, Barron doesn’t skimp on his descriptions, I wanted to live on Fincayra by the time I was done with this. I also believe he didn’t over build it either, I feel he found a really good medium area that would entice
middle grade readers as well as adult readers. I don’t know why so many other reviews say there is too much description in this for it to be considered MG, children are so much smarter than they are given credit for, I would have devoured this as a girl. But I also feel this book falls in between MG and YA, so as I like to say Older MG because lets face it YA isn’t really geared towards teens anymore.

I loved Barron’s take on Merlin’s personality, you met him as a young boy who wakes up on the beach and has no memory of anything and then it jumps forward some years to him being 12. He has bullies and he struggles to deal with them, he is angry and frustrated that he knows nothing of his past. He also really struggled with believing facts that where being told to him. On top of all of this he has these magic powers that he doesn’t understand. He goes through some rather horrific moments that ultimately have a negative effect on him physically, and I feel Barron did an amazing job showing how these changes really affected him. Merlin’s anger and frustration, and his depression over something he loses is so real and believable, and hit me really hard on the emotional scale. This isn’t a happy Merlin, and to think this is all happening to a young boy, makes it hit a little harder, I may have teared up some during this book. Even after he starts journeying out we start to get glimpses of his selfish side, and I completely understand where he is coming from, if I was out on a journey to find answers about my past and someone else was like “hey you haven’t lived here for long but I want you to put your journey aside and do what I ask” I would have said no too. I feel Merlin is very validated in a lot of his actions and they just make sense for a boy his age.

The story is split into 3 parts and each part feels like a mini story that ultimately connects. We get to travel to and around Fincayra with Merlin, and learn about the land which is in complete ruin thanks to the current king. We meet Rhia a very special girl who stands out in her own way through the story. I really enjoyed Rhia and Merlin’s interactions, they get along one minute and then argue the next, it felt realistic. There is the absolute best animal companion in this book and I will love Trouble for the rest of my days. After that Merlin does met an array of characters, and comes across many places on his journey through Fincayra. Merlin joins up with Rhia to stop the evil King from completely killing all of Fincayra so his initial quest takes a turn but the constant need to know his past is still constantly present in the story. Merlin continues to struggle with his innate magic, and wondering if he is even worthy of having it, but he also fears it to a huge extent, and I love that Barron made that a huge part of who Merlin is, he doesn’t magically overcome his fear. We learn quite a bit of the history of Fincayra through his travels, but there is still so much that hasn’t been explained, Barron gives just enough to get you invested but then holds back on the rest to keep you coming back. One of the elements I really appreciated was how Barron hinted at future story lines, they are sprinkled through out the story and it gives you something to look forward to.

Now if you loved The Chronicles of Prydain, boy do I have a treat for you, part three of this book, SCREAMS The Chronicles of Prydain. I felt like I was having deja vu but in a good way. Not only that but Barron tricked me and pulled a twist on me, that quite frankly I should have seen coming and I might feel a little silly for missing it, but if he was able to divert my attention from it, I can only imagine how many kids where tricked by it and I love that. I also really loved how Barron had explained how Merlin, became Merlin, because yes he does not go by that name through this book.

The Lost Years of Merlin is a quick, captivating tale of a young boy discovering who is and where he hails from, it’s exciting but also harrowing at times.

Side note, one of this things I really liked a lot about the book is the little nods to the Arthurian tales, they are sprinkled through out the story and just bring that fun little element to it.


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