December 07, 2007

Merlin Revisited: The Seventh Chair

This book is a 2007 Science Fiction & Fantasy Cybils Award Nominee.

If a giant chair bearing a nun floated onto the playground of your Catholic school, you can bet there'd be a lot of panic, excitement and chaos. That's what happens in Ann Keffer's The Seventh Chair -- which appears to be the first in a series of adventures for a boy named Davy, who is in remission from cancer, and his arch nemesis, Wally, who is the school bully.

Merlin alights from Siege Perilous -- one of the chair from the Round Table -- and is startled to discover he's been asleep for 1500 years. Realizing the need to discover another Arthur in this time, he is on a quest to find a boy. He has ridden the chair and followed the lead of his magic, and it has brought him to a Washington D.C. school.

Priests and nuns are horrified, and the children are entranced. But who is the boy who is Arthur Pendragon in this time? And how will Merlin find him?

Though this story has a lot of cute elements, the fact that the chair, Siege Perilous speaks in rhyme and tells the truth about individuals who sit in it reminds me a great deal of the Sorting Hat from the Harry Potter tales. This series is meant to be a new take on the Arthurian tale, despite the magic not leading Merlin to a girl or to a child of nonEuropean descent. Finally, the author spends a little too much time in the minds of the adults, making jokes that few younger readers would appreciate, and telling the story through the eyes of the adults. This will make it difficult for young readers to get into the story, but if they make the attempt, they will find a fast-moving story that ends tantalizingly too soon -- just as the adventure is beginning.

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