The Crystal Cave and while I had been initially reluctant to continue on with the series, I found this nice coronet version that compliments my copy of the first one. It arose next in line on my on-deck shelf and I dove in.
To my good fortune, I would add. I loved this book. The first was very enjoyable (my reluctance to not continue is due to the vast number of books I still have yet to read and thus not ready to commit to multi-series books unless I really have to), but this one surpasses it in my opinion. It's about Merlin's quest to protect and raise young Arthur so that he shall be ready to become king when the time comes. What I loved about this book is that Merlin just kicks so much ass, but he does it almost entirely without using force or violence. His tools are wisdom, strategy, diplomacy, guile, discourse, negotiation, charisma and his reputation, all slightly enhanced by his magic. I found it absorbing throughout with several tense, gripping moments. Arthur's importance is that he is foreseen to properly unite Britain, and though subtle, there is also an inspiring undertone of British patriotism throughout the book that is also quite moving.
One element that troubled me was the portrayal of Morgause, who in Stewart's telling, is the evil sorcerous who may be Arthur's eventual undoing. I'm sure feminists have dealt with the character in the myths. Here she is given no mercy, shown to be utterly corrupt almost from the get-go. All the elements from his lineage that mix to make greatness in Arthur, mix into his sister to make evil. Given that Mary Stewart is a woman, most of whose novels I believe have a female protagonist, I wonder if it is okay to question her portrayal of Morgause as a missed opportunity. If you care about those kinds of things. As a potential antagonist (her role is revealed late into the book), she is pretty scary.
Great stuff and now I'll definitely read the third one when a nice Coronet version crosses my path.