The Last Enchantment
First published 1979. I read a version downloaded from the Internet, probably pirated.
The last book in the Merlin trilogy. (Stewart has written another book in the Arthurian Saga, but Merlin plays no role in that). It deals with the beginning years of King Arthur's reign. Unfortunately, the legend itself has no thrilling and climactic episodes in this part such as the sword in the stone, or the begetting of Arthur that happened in the first two parts. As a matter of fact, the legend at this stage moves more into the medieval knights and ladies and tournaments and giants and dragons. The Lancelot stories are the highlights here, but Stewart does not deal with them, and sticks to the pre-Norman, pre-Christian era, about 6th Century. All portions of the legend, especially the Malory version, are re-interpreted to fit this era. The quality of writing and the lyricism which I liked in the first two books remain, but become a little tedious now, since the underlying story is less substantial. The chief event here is the enchantment and trapping of Merlin by the young witch Nimue or Niniane (or sometimes Viviane, but not in this book). This episode is again dealt with from the point of view of Merlin, and is sensitively handled. The book however fails to reach the heights of the other two (especially the first one) chiefly because, I think, the Merlin character looses importance after the business of the sword in the stone.