In the various Facebook groups I belong to that discuss science fiction and fantasy, what to give youngsters to read is one of the most common questions. All the way back in my very first post on this blog I talked about some of the books that got me into speculative fiction when I was young. I missed a big one.
This book, Merlin Dreams by Peter Dickinson, was kept constantly checked out of the York County Public Library by my friends and me when it came out back in ’88. I think I probably read it at least a dozen times a year for a good three year stretch. With cool artwork (thanks, Alan Lee) and somewhat darker tales than I was used too, this collection of short stories served as a bridge for me from the younger fluff tales to more adult themed works.
Having freshly reminded myself of this book in one of the aforementioned Facebook discussions, and with my oldest’s (the bookworm of the group) tenth birthday this month, I decided to get him the book.
Neither of us were disappointed. Fantastic artwork, both color and black and white, gripping stories that still feel fresh and original, strong prose, and varied themes make this one a real winner.
There is magic, swordplay, monsters, damsels in distress, and the characters struggle with relatable moral dilemmas.
I won’t get too much into the plot details of the various stories, but they are tied together as the dreams of the imprisoned Merlin, trapped by magic for mysterious purposes under a rock for eternity. The lines of memory and imagination in Merlin’s mind are deliberately blurred, and the vignettes in his head between stories are almost as fun as the stories themselves.
I cannot recommend this book enough. That said, enjoy some more of the artwork.