The greatest wizard of them all continues to inspire.
Merlin, the magician contemporary with King Arthur, makes his latest appearance in The Merlin Effect, by T. A. Barron (Philomel: $16.95; ages 10-14). Barron--whom critics compare to Madeleine L'Engle and C. S. Lewis-is the author of two previous fantasy novels, "Heartlight" and "The Ancient One," to which this latest book is a companion.
Kate, spending the summer with her oceanographer father in Baja California, is disappointed to find that he's far too busy researching sunken treasure to have any time for her. But the boring days are soon filled with an undersea adventure that sees Kate rubbing shoulders with ancient mariners, knights of yore, mournful whales, raging sea monsters and a host of other scary and fascinating creatures. And the key to unraveling a centuries-old mystery, luckily, comes to rest in this resourceful teen-ager's hands.
It's great to see a girl in the spotlight of an adventure this wild and woolly, and the tale has enough down-to-earth quality to appeal even to those who don't strictly consider themselves fantasy enthusiasts.