The Poisoned Chalice – Simon Forward
*Warning – may contain spoilers*
Author: Simon Forward
Publisher: Bantam Books
First published: 2009
Cover: Hardcover, signed by Bradley James and Angel Coulby
Blurb: The sorceress Nimueh is weaving a spell with powerful dark magic and her target is Merlin! Prince Arthur tries to help, but it seems he may be walking into a trap…
History of my copy: I got all the BBC Merlin books for Christmas a few years back and I’m slowly making my way through them all. They only cost me around £2.80 each. However, unknown to me (and probably the seller), my copy of this book has been signed by the actor and actress that plays Arthur and Gwen! It wasn’t until I opened it that I noticed! Not a bad bargain, if I do say so myself.
As for Merlin the TV show, I hated it when it first appeared on our screens back in 2008. I’ve always been a fan of Arthurian legend, and the show was so far off from the original myths that it just irked me. However, a few years ago, I tried again and became hooked! I binged the show and fell so in love with it. Since then, I have been a huge fan.
Plot: As you can probably tell, this book is a retelling of series 1 episode 4 of the BBC TV show Merlin. We, as the reader, follow Merlin and Arthur as King Bayard and the Mercians come to visit Camelot to sign a peace treaty. However, unknown to all, evil sorceress Nimueh is disguised as a serving girl and succeeds in poisoning Merlin. Arthur goes on a quest to find the antidote yet nearly dies in the process. However, as is their destiny, both Merlin and Arthur live to see another day.
Although held back by the fact the book is limited to the story of the TV episode with the same name, and thus the ending is known, I really enjoy the extra information, especially on the thoughts and feelings of the characters that the books provide.
Setting: Descriptions of settings really leave something to be desired in this book. Luckily, just like the majority of readers of this book, I have seen the episode countless times so I could heavily rely on that to picture what was going on. Without having watched the TV episode, I feel as if this book really wouldn’t do much for someone.
Characters: Possibly my favourite aspect of these books, besides being able to delve into the world of Camelot in a different way, is the development of characters! TV shows are rather limited to being able to display the deep, inner thoughts of characters, especially as too many monologues just look silly. These books allow the fans to truly get a sense of Arthur’s loyalty to Merlin, Gwen’s friendship, Gaius’ father-ness and just how cruel Uther can truly be. Character development is, without a doubt, a highlight of both the books and TV show and it’s really interesting to see how the cocky Prince Arthur becomes the King he is destined to be.
And, let’s not forget that this story had the wonderful line “That’s disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourself – you’re old enough to be her grandfather!” aimed at Gaius and Gwen. That is followed by Gwen kissing Merlin – how sweet! As the series developed, I really did miss the cute, innocent moments of the young adults from series 1.
To read or not to read: Read. Although The Poisoned Chalice was one of my least favourite series 1 episodes, I really enjoyed this book. I think that the episode lacked the bond between Arthur and Merlin that the book displays wonderfully. New and old fans alike will love this retelling.