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Two historical fantasies by Mary

I'm re-reading, or have just re-read, a couple of books from my youth.

One is The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. It's a first-person narrative of a growing boy who's grandson to a king, secret son to a king (not that he knows that at first) and son to a princess with the Power, later a nun; I forget if she was a priestess as such. He's small but clever, using his brains to raise big stones. He himself is touched and guided by the god. People say his father is a devil. He helps his real father recover his kingdom, but dad doesn't last long.

The other is The King Must Die by Mary Renault. It's a first person narrative of a growing boy who's grandson to a king, secret son to a king (not that he knows that at first) and son to a princess who is definitely a priestess. He's small but clever, inventing better forms of wrestling (though the Egyptians already know them), and uses his brains to raise a big stone. He himself is touched and guided by the gods. People say his father is Poseidon. He helps his real father get a more solid grip on his kingdom, but dad doesn't last long.

It's kind of spooky, reading these back to back.

There are differences. Merlin is never a king himself, and is a virgin dedicated to (or claimed by) the god; Theseus becomes king of Eleusis and Athens, and has been mating or raping since he was 12 or 13. Merlin's called a wizard, Theseus isn't. I think I'm finding Renault an easier writer, though her story is also more disquieting to read, what with the (non-graphic) claiming and rape of slaves, and the conversion of a city from mild matriarchy to Greek patriarchy; I don't think Merlin does anything a modern Westerner couldn't approve of, at least in the first book. Myriad other details.

But... still. Amusing similarity, for two books I decided to read on impulse. Also might be why I told my niece that the same author had written both books. Plus the Mary firstname collision.

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