The Brotherhood of Merlin
by Rory D. Nelson
Review by Barry Boy
I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.
I was looking forward to reading this book, because I am a Celt, as was Merlin, whether he existed or not. However, it is only a quarter way through the story that the reader finds out that this is not the same Merlin of Arthurian Legends. I use the word story loosely. Perhaps, I should have said novel, because I had to think really hard at the end of the book, what the story had been.
A boy survives a professional hit on his family and, at the end of the book, meets a girl, who has been rescued from a bloodthirsty king. In between those events, there is a lot of fighting over mining rights. Of course, there is a lot more to the novel than that, but it is all fighting with gory outcomes. In fact, there is so much fighting that Nelson runs out of words and phrases to describe the battle scenes. Words and phrases like: razor-sharp; preternaturally fast; cavernous hole; heavy gauged and high calibre crop up time after time after time.
The language used for the characters is strange. As a Brit, it immediately reminded me of a Scottish version of the notoriously bad English accent Van Dyke used in Mary Poppins. I guess it’s meant to be Scottish anyway from Nelson’s first name. However, even if it is supposed to be Elizabethan Scottish, he uses ‘Twill’, ‘Twas’ and ‘Twould’ for every person, not seeming to realise that ‘twas’ is short for ‘it was’. It cannot mean ‘I was’ or ‘you were’.
A few other annoyances for me are that some of Nelson’s pearls of wisdom are dubious, such as: ‘as beautiful women tend to be sheepish in nature’; he seems to use ‘Ye’ and ‘You’ at random and he uses historical names out of context. For example, in the beginning we meet Lucian, or Lucifer (and at one point Lucius); then Gaius Cassius, Merlin and others. These are iconic figures from history or literature, so it is simply confusing when they turn out not to be who we think they are.
It makes one wonder whether the Christ, Jesus and God referred to in the book are the ones we all know about.
I didn’t like anything about this book, except the cover. As I was struggling through the umpteenth fight scene, it occurred to me that this was an adolescent boy’s first novel and that it was based on the only forms of entertainment he had known all his life: video shoot-‘em ups and comics. Having said all that, the book is not boring. It has a pace that draws the reader along. It is more annoying than bad, although I find it badly written too. It is probably saveable though, if it were professionally edited.
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