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The Eternal Flame (2006)

The Eternal Flame (2006)
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4.22 of 5 Votes: 5
ISBN
0399242139 (ISBN13: 9780399242137)
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English
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philomel
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The Eternal Flame (2006)
The Eternal Flame (2006)

About book: HUGE SPOILER ALERT. When I first picked up the first book in the series, I did so because I was going through book withdrawal and I needed a good long series to keep me reading for awhile. I had expected it to be a King Arthur ripoff that would mildly entertain me but ultimately anger me when I thought about it.And boy, was I wrong. T. A. Barron did an amazing job with The Lost Years. Even though I desperately wanted Hallia to die ("We should turn back," "We should find another way, mirrors are dangerous," "No, don't save this forest full of life from a blight that might spread to other realms," "The marsh ghouls aren't capable of real emotion," etc.), I still loved the books she was in because I loved every other character. I was intensely interested in the Marsh Ghouls (HAH! YOU WERE WRONG, HALLIA!) because of how often they defied expectations and did exactly what I didn't think they'd do (except join the final battle at the end- I knew they'd do that. But didn't they keep any of Nimue's superpowered arrows? Doesn't seem like the thing you leave at home when charging into battle). They made me love this series. I picked up the next one, and I was ready to put it down. Not about Merlin? Ugh. But I'm glad I didn't because the Merlin's Dragon books may have been my favorites. I loved the character of Basil(garrad) and wanted to see more of him. As an added bonus, Hallia died, and as a result we saw Basilgarrad as a solo hero for awhile, always nice development to give a character. They were awesome (though they completely dashed Rita Gawr's chances of being a good or scary villain: things that beat him include a bird, mistletoe, his own soldiers, getting hit in the eye once by a dragon, and a fledgling wizard who is less powerful than Merlin is in his first book) in their suspense, though we never saw Nimue again. That was a bit of a letdown. And then... these books. Now, I understand that starting over with new characters in the same world can be risky and difficult. I write myself and understand how difficult it is to keep my characters from coming out about the same. But you don't have to make Tamwyn so... stupid. "A hoolah's following me! No way I could throw a rock at him and portal seek while he doesn't know where I'm going!""This guy says he won't pay me if I don't finish this bale of hay soon. Let's just wait on this ladder that feels like it's about to break for a little while longer." "These guys are horrible to me and I hate traveling with them. I have no bondage to them, no promise of pay at the end, and no real motivation for helping them. They also have no idea where they're going while I do, so they couldn't take vengeance upon me if, say, I sneeck off in the night while this annoying hoolah was asleep and went in a portal to keep him from following me.""My father is Krystallus, the son of Merlin! I am his only son. But I CAN'T be the true heir of Merlin! That doesn't make sense! My name means Dark Flame, that means I have to be the evil child, right?" (Also, what happened to that elf that Krystallus fell in love with during the Merlin's Dragon books? Did they break up? Did she die? Why not just make her a flamelon in the first place to avoid all the implications?)I also hated the character of Elli. She had an amazing introduction. I actually really liked her in her introduction. Same with Tamwyn. But then she was horrible to Tamwyn for the reason that he... tripped and accidentally landed on her instrument. For some reason she stayed angry at him for this event that he had very little control of, despite the fact that she had felt the same thing over and over when she was discriminated against for being a former slave. And Batty Lad/Basil... did he have to go through a COMPLETE PERSONALITY CHANGE to disguise himself? That doesn't even make sense. I used to love Shim's character, but in these books he was just a constant annoyance. I still liked the books, especially Scree's character, but the last one was... disappointing. THE ULTIMATE DRAGON FIGHT BETWEEN RHITA GAWR AND BASILGARRAD!!!!!...Only has a few sentences of describing the action during their fight (one of my favorite parts of all the books with Basil in them). and you have to wait 190 pages before you can even get to Basilgarrad, who magically became big in one second again. Last time he became big in one second, it was because Merlin accelerated his growth. Was Merlin there the whole time? And Rhita Gawr never noticed? Did Tamwyn, a fledgling wizard, perform this perfectly ON ACCIDENT? Without even knowing that Basilgarrad was there? Was Basil on a timer? How did Merlin time it? Wouldn't it have made more sense if Basil had become big again on the 17th year of the Dark Prophesy, since that was the only possible means by which Merlin could have figured out when to set it to? I mean, near the beginning, since being late by a few months (or really thirty seconds, considering he transformed just in time to save Tamwyn) could mean the extinction of Avalon? In fact, setting the countdown like that probably still would have been a good thing, considering how often the characters needed some method of flight, or maybe a superweapon like an elanodragon. Also, Merlin had to stay away from Avalon because he was too powerful or something. Okay. I could buy that......if Basilgarrad weren't MORE powerful. Really. They left Basilgarrad to fight Rhita Gawr later, even though they took away every other character who could have stood a chance against him. Merlin never even beats Rhita Gawr. Aylah sort of does. His pet bird does it twice. But Merlin has never defeated Rhita Gawr. Basil has. Yet they leave the one who is MORE powerful when they're taking out the good side's most powerful contenders. Furthermore, taking Merlin out of the equation to keep free will in play doesn't even make any sense. There's a very thick line between keeping free will and abolishing a people's only line of defense. At the end, Tamwyn concludes that people are the problem and need to go to Earth. What? What about the gobsken? Or marsh ghouls or ghoulaces or dragons (all of them are villains except the water ones, Basil, and Gwynnia, more or less)? What about Dactyl birds or gnomes or even dwarves or eaglemen? Or the flamelons, or maybe those people who tried to sacrifice Tamwyn? What about the changelings? How are those guys not causing problems?That leads to another question. Why does Kulwych use a changeling to rally the humans? Didn't he think that was a bit risky, considering that changelings can never copy something exactly right? He couldn't get a human from his human-run organization to volunteer to live in comfort as a figurehead for human supremacy? Then there's that changeling guy. At the end we see that changelings move too fast for a human to get them before they die. But in all the previous books, the characters have been able to kill changelings as long as they figured out what they were in time. Suddenly they're more deadly in their true form than they are in any other form? Why do they ever shape-shift?Also, there's the staff thing. Merlin sort of sends Tamwyn after it, but... what? What about Nimue? Isn't she still after the staff? As far as we know, she's on earth, right? She's on earth in the future timeline in the mirror one, and she can't be in Fincayra or the spirit realm. Was she in Avalon the whole time? And didn't do anything? She has to be on earth, right? So... you're more or less sending Tamwyn alone against her, staffless. Merlin, you couldn't beat Nimue in your fourth adventure, and your powers developed way faster than Tamywn's. And you had a staff. And an army of marsh ghouls. And a dragon. Shouldn't YOU go after the staff? Or maybe your shadow? Was this one of its weeks off or something? T. A. Barron, I love your work. But this book made no sense.

You see this scenario often: the “rite of passage” scenario coupled with the “epic quest.” A world/way of life is threatened – often by larger than life supernatural villains – and the only hope lies in destinies of the unlikeliest characters. There’s something quite extraordinary about the Ordinary Hero: the David Complex, as I like to call it (David vs. Goliath, anyone?) and though in all honesty it’s a scenario we’ve seen countless times (and very likely can predict the outcomes), we still get swept away into the heart-stopping action.- This was The Eternal Flame. Like I said, the outline of this story is one we’re more than likely familiar with, but the heart of the book manages to keep everything fresh and new. I really don’t want to say a lot about the plot for fear of dropping spoilers... I will say that in the proud tradition of Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Prydain and other classic fantasy works, The Great Tree of Avalon revolves around the transformation of ordinary individuals into extraordinary heroes, complete with vivid, descriptive scenery, detailed backstory, a lush ensemble of characters, and insightful moral truths. Yes, this series is entertaining, but it is so much more than just that – it’s not forgetful, it’s not superficial, it doesn’t leave you feeling strangely empty...it has *substance*.n a nutshell, the world of Avalon is made of up one great tree: the roots of the tree make up the seven realms, the bark of the tree are the mountains and valleys, and the tips of the branches hold the stars. So it is therefore very possible (and indeed, the goal of the main character) to climb to the stars. As always, careful attention was given to detail!Each of the principal characters: Tamwyn, Elli, Scree, and Brionna, each have their own perspectives and their own separate missions to complete. Even though Tamwyn is the most important character, I liked how Barron paid attention to the others, as well. I personally would have liked for them to have been reunited or something, since this was the last book—it just felt a little weird that they were all by themselves…but that’s entirely a “me” thing. You don’t have to worry about “flat” characters in the Avalon series, that’s for sure! Well, the villains are flat, but they’re villains, come on!Ending: I will say that I was a bit…I don’t know, less than amused with the ending. Not ‘disappointed’ or anything. I actually liked the way the story was resolved, it just seemed to end really abruptly. Like, I turned the page, thinking there would be more, but it went to the appendices. I have to admit, I think I blurted out a “what the?!?!” just because I was not expecting that. So the ending of The Eternal Flame definitely could have been better. I guess I’ve just read too many good series endings in the past (Return of the King, The High King, Deathly Hallows, *The Last Freaking Awesome Olympian*) and was expecting too much, maybe. Whatever.
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Reviews
Sharon
Way cool!I am SO going to go back and read this again. I got SO many story ideas, and the huge climax in book three was totally epic and amazing and something I wish I could mimic. The three main characters were likable, believable, and lovably annoying all in their own ways. Hearts to Tamwyn and Elli, some of the best main characters ever written! (Scree was only so-so.)And the book wouldn't be the same without supporting characters Batty Lad, Henni, and Nuic. Rhiannon was pretty darn awesome. Llynia was annoying, but you were forced to feel for her by the end of book 3. Brionna and Scree were a waste of my time, but I liked Scree's world of the eaglemen.Batty Lad's ending was the best ending EVER. Totally completed my already perfect image of him. Tamwyn and Elli also had pretty good endings.
Paul Lunger
The penultimate book in T.A. Barron's Merlin saga, "The Eternal Flame" is a book that even by itself could wrap up the series on its own. This time around we continue the final quest to relight Merlin's constellation & fight Rhita Gawr in order to save Avalon. The story follows Tamwyn, Elli & Scree as they each continue their own role in the final battle from the stars to the different levels of the Tree of Avalon. Barron's story is as entertaining as it is fast moving & literally at times is breathtaking in its descriptions of the stars, battles & realms that have made this series the pleasure that it has been to read. Another fine entry as the finale with Merlin himself remains.
Jen
Hands down the best of the trilogy, which is something. Again, Barron has some pretty predictable moves--although I must admit, I was surprised exactly three times by plot twists in this, which was great. I repeat my assertion of the first two books that Barron's world is super neat and something I would love to explore, but the characters are just too flat. Even the major battle of Everybody Ever at Isenwy wasn't enough (though the battle with Rhita Gawr was actually pretty well done, if Barron would stop expositing in the middle of it).Glad to have finished the trilogy, maybe would have liked it better before I read all the other fiction that seems to have informed this. (Why is the mudwoman Maker a linguistic disciple of Yoda?) Also, the ending confused the dickens out of me; I have no idea why humans were singled out (trying to avoid spoilers), since elves have also proved themselves capable of duality. No idea. Glad Batty Lad finally got interesting, though Henni and Shim remained not at all helpful to the plot. Ah, well.
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