Hobby

by Jane Yolen

Sequel to Passager, though really these books are so short it should just be one volume, in my opinion. I was disappointed that the story skips ahead four years- on the opening page, the kid who would become Merlin has just finished his time living with the family that found him in the forest. Not by choice- the house burned down and he lost everything. I would have liked to see more of his life with the falconer, but nope. So Merlin sets off for the nearest large town leading the surviving horse and cow, hoping to sell them at market and start over. He comes across a rough man who of course takes the animals and Merlin too, intending to sell him into servitude. An accident frees Merlin from this man’s clutches- one that he kind of foresaw in a dream. His dreams seem to foretell things, but in an off-kilter way, “on the slant” he says. Again, I found the portrayal of the dreams and their supposed meaning really interesting. In town, Merlin falls into new company- this time a pair of performers- the man calls himself a magician and at first Merlin is impressed, but soon he realizes it’s all sleight-of-hand and trickery. Things happen and they wind up performing for the king, who’s having issues with building a tower that keeps collapsing. This is the same old story of the foundations being unstable, and Merlin’s dream explains it. Well- the magician says it means one thing, but Merlin knows it’s actually different, and can’t help telling the truth, even when it might anger the king. It turns out the town is not a safe place for this kid with unusual abilities. In the end, Merlin escapes it all and runs back into the forest.

Like the other, I just found this book way too brief, even though the prose is lovely, the imagery vivid, the story moves quickly and seems full of meaning. Just wanted more. Aside from the dream aspect, I was intrigued by the idea of names having significance, even power over people. Reminiscent to me of the characters in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series, where true names are never spoken, because they give others power or control over one . . . Here, young Merlin is cautious to tell people his real name and keeps going by one he picks in the moment- it was Hobby during this book.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
90 pages, 1996

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