Merlin (with spoilers was RE: Ready for Merlin?

Anna Clare McDuff amcduff at
Fri May 23 10:47:44 EDT 2003

On Fri, 23 May 2003, Hallie O'Donovan wrote:

> I agree about lack of empathy for the feelings of others, but also
> feel that selfish is the word for him, at least in _Deep Secret_.

	For me, I'd say that a lack of empathy is one of the many forms
selfishness can take... I think Nick displays quite a few, more in DS than
in Merlin but he is both more selfish then & the novel is more
psychologically sophisticated... It's quite strange reading books set in
the same universe but written for different age groups... I remember
someone said earlier that she had found Merlin wasn't improved by being
read immediately after DS (was it Kathleen? Sorry, I really don't
remember) and I wonder if that was what she meant.

> And that was one of the (very few) things I found disappointing about
> Merlin.  By the end of DS Nick seemed to me a more fully developed
> character than he was in Merlin.   And he'd also moved so far in the
> direction of out-growing his selfishness that I was rather surprised
> to find it coming up as if he was only 'now' starting to work on it.
> But he also seemed - maybe not exactly younger, but certainly no
> older than at the end of DS.  Maybe the same age in fact, but written
> for a younger audience?

	That would be my take on the situation! I found two main
disappointments in Merlin, which on the whole I really loved. The first
was that sometimes I felt I was being told things explicitly that I would
rather be left to infer from the text, and consequently I found *some* of
the characterisation a bit thin and young. This especially struck me when
Roddy was learning to deal with the consequences for her self image after
finding out about Grundo's deception and mind control. But that can I
think be put down to its being a childrens book.  The second was I felt
the changes between Nick & Roddy's perpectives were a bit jarring. Each
time I'd be really deep into the story in one place & perspective and I'd
feel sorry to leave even though I was eager to catch up with the latest
doings of the other one. It just didn't quite jell for me until quite far
into the book...

> Yes, I agree with you both here.  And even more than Howl's
> 'slithering-out', I think Nick's selfishness served a vital survival
> purpose.

	Yeah, and what else could be expected of him? I mean look at the
upbringing he's had, poor boy! But I think in Merlin he begins to learn
that if he's going to continue to survive in tight corners he's going to
have to stop assuming that everyone feels the same way about things as he
does, and that he's going to have to stop focusing solely on what
interests him and learn to seek out perspectives that aren't immediately
obvious to him...


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