I don’t often talk about the cover unless there’s something that stands out about it. Outside of The Armageddon Rag by GRRM, I haven’t seen any other fantasy books with an explicitly hippie-fantasy acid trip looking covers. That could go in so many different directions, so going into this one I had no idea what to expect other than something maybe based in the ’60s and with a music theme.
This has one of the most dramatic openings of the books in my pile. It starts off with our main character, Bradan, as he’s riding his haunted motorcycle down a highway in Big Sur, California fleeing the Wild Hunt while high off his ass on acid. Why? Well, maybe it could be relevant to the fact that he was once Merlin’s apprentice.
We follow multiple segments of Bradan’s 1500 year life span and so the plot kind of gets split into multiple timelines. Some of his timelines are featured more than others, and we get to see him in; 1967, 1964, 1478, 600CE, (and maybe a couple others I’m missing).
Back in 600CE when he’s chilling with King Arthur and company, Merlin grants him extended life. I don’t know much about Arthurian myths and legends… I’ve read a few books loosely based on it, I’ve seen the Holy Grail, and I’ve watched The Sword in the Stone. Literally, that’s it, so I don’t know how true to the lore this story is, but I recognize the characters enough to follow along. So Merlin, Arthur, Medraut, and Morgana are all hanging out not liking each other, and eventually Medraut kills his father, King Arthur. He and Bradan then have a multi-generational hate battle going on.
Bradan was an okay character, I didn’t totally warm up to him and because of that I didn’t fully invest in the storyline. He just didn’t strike me as someone with the wisdom living 1500 years must give somebody. He felt much more like a guy in his 30’s, which is how he appears physically. He does a lot of impulsive stuff which could be excused if he was truly immortal, but he’s not. A shotgun blast would take him out just like anyone else, he’s just exceptionally resilient to disease and does have a healing ability higher than most, but it can be overcome. Keeping that in mind, you’d think he’d be a bit less reckless given how much life experience he must have. In the 1960’s he’s a professor at Berkley who’s also in a band, and was once a WWII fighter pilot.
The world building was crazy. There’s just SO much stuff crammed into one book, and into one “lifetime” for Bradan. On top of King Arthur and Co, the Wild Hunt, there are elves, the Fair Folk, demons, ghosts, specters, phantoms etc. It was a draw at first, but with each layer of chaos that was added I felt it started to get a little muddy. There are a ton of ’60s pop culture references, particularly the bands that were big at the time; Mama’s and the Papa’s, Grateful Dead, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, and one of the chapter titles was Feed Your Head etc. This is definitely aimed at people who enjoy the 1960’s history, culture, and music. The magic in this book was pretty interesting, it worked with incantations that were kinda like poems/music lyrics. It also um… Merlin is able to pass on a long life through… well… several means. He also gives Morgana, Arthur’s sister the same gift… but through sex. In this world having sexy time with Merlin and uttering a spell will make you near immortal — lol hot damn. This isn’t the only instance where sex was literally magical, so I think I can legit say this book has sex related magic. For a book about the ’60s this is more or less par for the course.
I’m of two minds on the writing for this book. On the one hand, the prose is more than serviceable, it’s one of the better written books in my batch and it stood out as soon as I started reading it. However, the sex scenes in this book were just… not my thing at all. The word ‘cream’ was used and I think clenched a bit. I think I would have maybe gotten over it but there were multiple sex scenes I just didn’t jive with.
I felt like the pacing could use a little work. I was able to follow it for the most part because most chapters had a year and location under the title… but not all of them did? I’m not sure if that was intentional or not, but 2-3 chapters didn’t have time/locations but all the others did. We also didn’t have an even page time between the timelines which made it feel a little bumpy. It’s not a long book, so I wouldn’t say it was bloated or needed to be cut down, if anything maybe a little added to pad the difference in page time between the different eras of his life.
I have such mixed feelings about this book; but I would definitely say pick it up if any of this sounds interesting, it’s worth reading for sure.
- Plot: 10/15
- Characters: 11/15
- World Building: 11/15
- Writing: 10/15
- Pacing: 8/15
- Originality: 14/15
- Enjoyment: 6.5/10
Final Score: 70.5/100