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Mayse, Susan.

Toronto, Irwin Publishing. 1987. 298pp, cloth, $19.95, ISBN 0-7725-1658-8. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Anne Locatelli

Volume 16 Number 2
1988 March

Every day the media offer us a disturbing diet of terrorist acts and senseless killings; seldom do we hear much about the people involved, about their motives, about their lives. In Merlin's Web we become involved in a very intricate kidnapping and we follow the characters through their harrowing experiences as they perpetrate horrible crimes in the name of the independence of Wales. Susan Mayse was born in Toronto, Ontario, grew up in British Columbia, and now lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Her work as a freelance reporter, radio announcer and television script-writer accounts for the insight she displays and the excellent development of her media characters in Merlin's Web. Mayse has studied the history and culture of Wales and the Welsh language, which she both speaks and writes. She uses Welsh profusely in her story; this will add a dimension for those who are familiar with the language. I kept feeling irritated by the sprinkling of Welsh words as I read them without comprehending and I wished a glossary had been provided for readers like me.

For those who have enjoyed books by le Carré and Follett, Merlin's Web will be a treat. Pip, son of the queen of England, is kidnapped with his Scottish nanny by a group of Welsh extremists during an official ceremony in London, England. In charge of the terrorist group is Gwyn Davies, a college teacher and strong Welsh nationalist, whose alias is Merlin. Gwyn has gathered an assortment of hot-headed "professional" terrorists with a variety of backgrounds and interests: IRA, Red Brigades, Qadhafy's Lybia-some idealists, some mercenaries.

As the story unfolds we pick up three main threads of action. There are the terrorists, desperate to obtain independence and rights for Wales; there is the BBC, represented by reporter Peter Holt who wins exclusive rights to record, film and publish the unfolding saga; and there is the professional negotiator, Robert Grenville, whose main concern is reuniting the little prince unharmed with his mother. What a relief when Pip finally runs, miraculously unscathed, into his mother's arms! How was the prince finally found. . . what happened to the terrorists. . . did Wales gain any advantages? You must read the book to find the answers.

The plot is intriguing and makes one wonder if Wales is potentially another Northern Ireland. Merlin asks: "So why are people still ignorant of what is happening here? . . . Why doesn't anyone understand what's being done to Wales?" and Holt replies:

"To Wales, to Chile, to Afghanistan, to Central America. Among other places. Simple. They'd rather watch soap operas than the news. They'd rather read Andy Capp than editorials. As long as it doesn't happen on their own turf. You can talk till you turn blue, but there's no point talking unless people listen."

Sophisticated and packed with suspense. I recommend it for those who enjoy this type of story.

Anne Locatelli, Elliot Lake Secondary School Library, Elliot Lake, Ont.
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