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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Ignition by Emma Shelford is the first book in the Musings of Merlin series. It's been centuries since Arthur's death, but he promised to return one day, and for some reason Merlin believed him. Now it's the 21st century and still no Arthur. Merlin has reinvented himself as Merry Lytton, a professor living a seemingly normal life teaching, grading papers, and spending time with his friend, Jen. All that changes when he discovers a volcano about to erupt in a quaint town, but there's nothing natural about this eruption. To make matters worse, Jen takes a new job in the very town he's trying to save. Someone is behind the volcano's activity, but he's not sure how that someone is pulling it off or how to stop it. Can Merlin stop it before time runs out?
A marvelous modern take on the legendary Merlin! Ignition is a clever and creative fun read with a deep connection to nature and the past. Merlin sees the energy (or lauvan) in everything around him, which connects him to his surroundings, and makes him see things in a different light than most people. An impending natural disaster is at the root of the plot, with the volcano on the brink of erupting and Merlin running around trying to prevent it. Merlin is every bit the legendary wizard of old, but with a modern update. He has an old soul, but a modern sense of humor and a sense of loneliness about him. He realistically has trouble truly connecting fully to people, because he doesn't know if he can trust them with an immortal secret, knowing that their time is limited, whereas his is endless.
His closest relationship is with Jen, his friend and former student, which is reminiscent of Merlin's relationship with Arthur. She's brilliant, loyal, and spunky, giving Merlin the friend that he desperately needs. She feels like an anchor for him, grounding him to this life as Merry Lytton. Their scenes together are charming and endearing, providing a lot of humor and heart. But even she doesn't take away from his underlying feeling of loneliness or the grief of his past. He's a very layered character with so much story to tell, which Emma Shelford tells magnificently in this chapter of his life by reflecting on moments of his past. Shelford weaves through time, balancing out the chaos of Merlin's present. The insight to his past gives a little understanding of who Merlin is now, with the greater focus on how he met and lost Arthur. While Arthur is dead in the present day, the flashbacks show how their relationship developed and give him a very real presence. A definite must-read!