Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Review: Merlin's Harp by Anne Eliot Crompton

Tags: YA, fantasy, Arthurian legend, fey, lust

Rating: 1 out of 5


Nivienne lives among her Fey kin on Apple Island, known to humans as Avalon. She’s the daughter of the Lady of the Lake and an apprentice to Merlin, the half-human, half-fey sorcerer who knows King Arthur. Turmoil in Arthur’s kingdom threatens to affect the fey, however, and Nivienne must use her cunning and knowledge to navigate the treacheries of human men.


I don’t get offended by books often. Premarital sex, abstinence until marriage, drinking, backstabbing, pranking, people killing people, etc.—everything is good in my opinion as long as it’s written well and doesn’t sound like an agenda that is out of place within the fictional world. MERLIN’S HARP, however, is a mess of a novel, poorly organized and weakly characterized—unfortunate, because the writing is beautiful and the story held such promise.

For a generation that’s being bombarded with a multitude of sensations, experiences, and information left and right, we need stories that are far more organized—less ADD—than the lives we lead. The story of MERLIN’S HARP is exceedingly difficult to follow. It is almost impossible to tell without dedicating 110% of your brainpower to the task whether Nivienne is narrating something that’s occurring in the present or something that happened in her past—and if it is the latter, which part of her past it occurred, as, yes, she somehow attempts to provide us with multiple flashbacks at once. And it’s less than lack of chronology throughout the story as it is the fact that the flashbacks (or whatever we should call them) provide us with hardly any cohesive information about either the characters or the world in which the story is set.

Crompton’s fey are fairly dissimilar to humans: they’re heartless, free-spirited sexual beings. They would’ve provided an interesting contrast to human characteristics, had their lustful behavior been better developed. I have nothing against any kind of sex in fiction, but when characters are objectifying and rubbing up on one another left and right without first having been developed into characters whose lustful actions are justified, then I DO have a problem with that. MERLIN’S HARP is a very sensual read, but my difficulty in connecting to any of the characters, of understanding their motivations, makes it an awkward read at best.

Overall, I’m afraid MERLIN’S HARP is yet another example of a book that is being marketed to the wrong genre. Readers of adult fantasy may be better suited to appreciate its slow story, meandering plot, and sensual writing. YA fantasy fans, however, may find this book difficult to get through.

Similar Authors
Grimm Brothers

Writing: 2/5
Characters: 1/5
Plot: 1/5

Overall Rating: 1 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - I don't believe the cover has very much relevance to the story--the model is too pretty, and not inhuman and slightly intimidating like the fey in this book are--and it's a shame, because this cover is quite pretty. Love the mixture of greens and pinks, a combination you wouldn't think would work as well as it does here.

Sourcebooks Fire / Mar. 1, 2010 / Paperback / 256pp. / $7.99

Review copy provided by publisher for blog tour.

Want to check out what others thought of this book? Here is the blog tour schedule:



  1. I have yet to read this, so I can't really contradict your review (nor would I, since it is YOUR opinion). However, IIRC, Merlin's Harp was originally an adult novel and has been repackaged by Sourcebooks Fire imprint as a YA.
    Just thought I'd let you know :)

  2. Yikes! 1 out of 5!!

    And hey, new blog header and look! I need to step out of my google reader more often. *sheepish look*

    I will pick this up atthe store if I see it and flip through it. I am on the fence about it currently.

  3. Emilee, I did know that; thanks for letting readers know. :) Although IMHO it was probably a bad marketing move...

  4. Great, articulate review - but what a shame about the book.

    I totally know what you mean about books being marketed to the wrong audience sometimes. I guess since YA is selling well right now that may well be likely to happen more, but I don't think it does the book any good in the long run.

  5. This is the second review I read of this book today and they couldn't have been more different :) It makes me want to read the book and find out for myself how good or bad it is(in my opinion) :)

    I like your new layout.

  6. I love your honest review. I'm hesitant to read this.

  7. Dang it! Paul should have re-leased the list! He had my date wrong. I'm not going until the 20th of this month, not February.

    But this book is not shaping up to be good at all. To be fair to the Fey, I've been reading up a lot about them and they're very sex-driven without a purpose. So I can understand it from that respect. But this is the second review I've read that wasn't good. Now my copy is glaring at me.

  8. lol, despite the negative review, you made me curious about this novel. I do enjoy retellings, and I've been seeing multiple reviews that talk about the pretty prose in this novel, (even as they all gave the book not so great ratings, lol). I can enjoy almost anything if I think the writing is pretty. Will go check out the other reviews on the blog tour. 8D

  9. I've seen this around, and it never caught my eye as something I'd want to read. Now that I know it is so disorganized (a pet peeve of mine), I'll know not to accidently pick it up.

  10. I agree with Lenore, books that are disorganised and don't seem to flow really drive me insane, because it makes me wonder what the book looked like before it was editied and gone through revisions, which makes me shudder.

    It happens a lot here in the UK to tell you the truth, they have so many books that thery promote to the wrong market, thus not a lot sell. It's a shame really because some amazing books are not being read because they are in the wrong section of the store.

  11. Good review. I totally agree. I didn't actually finish this book. You're right - the marketing move was not a smart one.


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