The Coming of the King

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In composing THE COMING OF THE KING: THE FIRST BOOK OF MERLIN, Nikolai Tolstoy (great grandson of the famous Russian novelist) taps the rich residue of Celtic mythology and prehistory centered on the legendary figure of King Arthur. Readers who enjoy the work of Robert Graves, Ursula K. LeGuin, T.H. White, and Mary Stewart will certainly find great pleasure in this long historical novel. Since Tolstoy chooses to tell the story from Merlin’s point of view, a good deal of time is spent letting Merlin recount the wonderful story of his birth and first forty years (when he lived in the sea and apprenticed himself to a wise old salmon-god). Tolstoy also uses these pages to introduce many of the key characters, including Taliesin, the bard whose poetry is as potent as any spell.

The story proper concerns a fierce, protracted battle at the fortress of Dineirth where a hopelessly outnumbered troop of Celtic warriors under the command of King Maelgun (symbolized by the red dragon) is attacked by a horde of Saxon invaders led by King Cynurig and the heroic Beowulf--both of whom perish in the fray, by sword and fire respectively. Maelgun is given invaluable help by Merlin himself and by Rufinus, a brave Roman mercenary who joins in the cause and ultimately forfeits his life.

There are so many characters and place names in THE COMING OF THE KING that Tolstoy was forced to include two glossaries, which aid the reader immeasurably as this complex tale unfolds. THE COMING OF THE KING has it all--romance, warfare, magic, demons, and poetry (in three different languages): It is a novel that will provide many hours of deep and sustained reading pleasure.