The Lost Years of Merlin

by T.A. Barron

Page 1 of 3

The Lost Years of Merlin Penguin Group
Guide by Sally Estes
Former Editor, Books for Youth, Booklist

Introduction

Do you ever wonder just who you are, or who you could become in the future? What kind of experiences do you think would help you as you are growing up? The young Merlin faces these very questions in his search for his true identity and the secret of his powers. In reading about Merlin, author T.A. Barron noticed that little had been written about Merlin's youth, and started wondering what challenges Merlin had faced in his search for his identity. What was Merlin like as a boy? Where did he come from? Like everyone, Merlin has to learn who he is and who he could become. He confronts his deepest dreams, his darkest fears, and his greatest lessons about life. The deeper Barron got into the story, the more Merlin himself seemed to take over the telling.

The journey begins in The Lost Years of Merlin, when a young boy washes ashore on the coast of ancient Wales. He has no memory – not even of his own name. For five years he lives in a small village, with a woman who claims to be his mother. By age 12, Emrys, as he is known, has seen the awakening of his powers and gained his second sight, though he loses much at the same time. In search of his identity, he builds a raft and makes his way to the mythic isle of Fincayra. He finds that he must save the island from a terrible blight to answer his questions. At last, he learns he is Merlin, destined to be the greatest wizard of all time.

The saga continues in The Seven Songs of Merlin, in which Merlin finally encounters his mother and discovers the dark side of his powers. Danger still stalks Fincayra, and Merlin's mother is the first victim. The only way to save her is for Merlin to master an ancient riddle called the Seven Songs of Wisdom, which will enable him to enter the Otherworld and find the elixir his mother needs. Even more difficult, Merlin must discover the secret of seeing not with his eyes, but with his heart.

In The Fires of Merlin, the boy encounters fire in the various forms, most particularly in the form of the ancient dragon Valdearg, who is awakened and threatens to wreak havoc on all of Fincayra. Only the uncertain, insecure Merlin, whose magic powers are untested, has a chance to stop the dragon, though his efforts could cost him his life. Merlin faces not only outward fires, but also the awakening flames of passion within himself. And he finds that the power to heal is far greater than the power to destroy.

In The Mirror of Merlin, the young wizard gains a greater understanding of his powers and his essential humanity – as well as the great destiny that awaits him. In the Haunted Marsh, he encounters the witch Nimue, who tries to destroy him. He also discovers a magical mirror that can alter anyone's fate. But when he looks into it, he sees the person he least expected to find.

And, at last, we come to the Wings of Merlin. Merlin discovers new aspects of his own spirit and gains even more mastery over his powers. Everything comes to a head as Merlin finds himself in a desperate race to save his homeland, Fincayra, and all the people he loves, from destruction. The spirit lord Dagda summons Merlin to tell him that the world of Fincayra and the Otherworld will soon nearly touch. A doorway will open at the sacred circle of stones, and Rhita Gawr, the warlord of the spirit world, will invade with his deathless army. The only hope of repelling the evil forces is to assemble enough Fincayran creatures – humans, dwarves, marsh ghouls, talking trees, living stones, deer people, canyon eagles, merfolk, giants, and more. Only Merlin, who is known to all the races, can possibly rally them. Can it be done? How can Merlin cover enough territory to reach everyone? And more, how can he convince them all to join together, when all distrust one another? As Merlin and his closest companions race against time, new dangers emerge, including a masked warrior whose shoulders bear swords rather than arms. He is roaming the lands, attacking children to lure Merlin into a battle to the death. How can Merlin gather and hide all the children to protect them? The answer lies in solving the ancient mystery of the Fincayrans' lost wings, and in learning the true value of forgiveness. Can Merlin achieve all this and still make it to the circle of stones in time? In the surprising conclusion, Merlin must make the most difficult choice of his life.


About T.A. Barron

T.A. Barron, who lives with his wife and five children on a small farm in Colorado, spent much of his youth on a ranch outside of Colorado Springs. As a child he loved to hike and camp – and also to write. In elementary school, he wrote, illustrated, and printed his own magazine called The Idiot's Odyssey. He continued to write in college, founding two publications at Princeton, and was awarded the Pyne Prize, Princeton's highest honor to an undergraduate for outstanding service to the university. He attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and traveled widely, backpacking through parts of Asia and Africa.

He spent the following years in business, as president of a fast-growing venture capital firm in New York. Finally, in 1989, he surprised his business associates by resigning from the management in order to return to Colorado with his family to write books. Every one of Barron's novels – featuring heroic young people in a wide variety of settings and times – have been highly acclaimed. His books include Heartlight, The Ancient One, The Merlin Effect, and most recently, The Lost Years of Merlin and its sequels, The Seven Songs of Merlin, The Fires of Merlin, The Mirror of Merlin, and The Wings of Merlin.

Barron is also an accomplished nature writer. He wrote the prose and poetry for two books with photography by John Fielder: To Walk in Wilderness and the award-winning coffee table book Rocky Mountain National Park: A One Hundred Year Perspective. In addition, he writes picture books for children. Where Is Grandpa? is a loving tribute to his own father – and the wisdom of kids. He has also written High as a Hawk, the story of a brave young girl and a mountain guide on Colorado's Long's Peak.

Barron's favorite pastime is hiking with his wife, Currie, and their five kids, on the trails near their Colorado home. In addition, he often speaks at schools and conventions around the country, and also supports an array of environmental and educational causes. He continues to serve on several nonprofit organization boards. A former trustee of Princeton University, he helped to found the university's program in environmental studies. Recently he received The Wilderness Society's highest honor, the Robert Marshall Award, for his efforts to protect America's wilderness heritage. Barron and his wife have also created the Gloria Barron Young Heroes Prize, to honor and inspire heroic young people.


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