Centuries ago the legendary realm of Avalon disappeared into the mist as a battle was fought between Merlin the Magician and the Lady of the Lake. In their anger and passion they invoked a curse on each other's descendents, which will remain until their war ends forever. Now the descendents of Merlin and the Lady have discovered the memoirs of their ancestors and as the stars prepare to align themselves in a way which only occurs every few hundred years, events beging to bring the two sides together. Gavin and Tamara are thrust into an unlikely relationship as they fight internal conflict - an instant dislike to each other but their lineage and blood passion runs deep. As the 'Ceremony of the Stars' nears we see the extent to which manipulation and deception can distort a person so that they are willing to turn against one they once loved dearly. Will the battle be won this time and the curse lifted? Or will the evil Morganna succeed in destroying forever the love which Merlin and the Lady once shared and in the process gain ultimate power?
'Sword Across Time' is a cleverly written tale where the author has expertly plucked historical events and legends, re-working them into her own view of what 'really happened' to create a highly original and intriguing book. There was just enough background to enable me to link events and characters to the classic tales of Merlin, the Lady of the Lake and King Arthur without needing to know all the details myself. Catherine Collins managed to open-mindedly tackle the subject of religion inviting the reader to join the characters as they struggled with their own beliefs. There were many questions raised and some impressive and intelligent answers offered.
I was not convinced by the Prologue as the dialogue sounded cheesy. It was a great idea to open the book with the battle between Merlin and Nimue, but I feel that it would have been better to use an observer to relay events. The initial chapters from Tamara's perspective were a bit dull and lack the magic of the rest of the novel. However the chapters going back in time seen through the various memoirs were great. They contain a lovely writing style, whcih set the scene and was believable for both the period and the characters. I became caught up in the element of mystery and romance as I read this historical sections.
As the story unfolds and the viewpoint begins to change with every new chapter I found that I could not put the book down as many surprising revelations compelled me to read on. 'Sword Across Time' slows down in the middle and I felt that there were excessive amounts of talking between the various parties. A lot of the information had already been given via the diaries and served to pad out the story not enhance it. Likewise with the interaction between Tamara and Gavin - I felt as if there was a lot of repetition where they withhold information from the other person, then blow up at each other, then spill everything. This tended to get a bit boring.
I liked how there were limited characters involved as this allowed them to be fully developed. However I felt that the feelings between Merlin and Nimue were not justified. They rushed into an incredibly passionate relationship and I felt like there should be more to it than love at first sight but this was never revealed. On the other hand, Tamara and Gavin's relationship was great. The conflict between attraction and dislike was perfectly balanced and I loved how neither of them can understand why they feel the way they do but slowly give in to it.
I was impressed with the quality of the imagery, which helped me to see Scotland in a truly mystical and romantic way unlike most fantasy worlds, which have been created purely by the author. My only suggestion would be that the language of modern day characters needs some work as it was very often obvious to the point of being unrealistic when trying to portray strong emotions. The present day chapters were also lacking teh excellent flow of the rest of the book with too many short, abrupt sentences. I was slightly disappointed by the Epilogue as it seemed to follow on too quickly from the climax and the impressive ending to this story was lost.
Overall I loved this book and the way in which the author has turned history into a believable story where I became immersed in the beautiful story-telling. I would highly recommend this book to readers particularly those of us who want to believe that the magic and mystery of our past lives on.
Reviewed by Helen Kerslake
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