The Last Enchantment, by Mary Stewart, is the third book in the Arthurian saga. These books just keep getting better and better. Not able to stop at the second book in the series, I purchased a copy The Last Enchantment myself. So much happens in this exciting book. I will try to give just the highlights without giving too much away.
Arthur is beginning his reign at the start of this book. In the last book, Arthur slept with Morgause, his wicked sister. He did not realize that she was his sister, although she knew that Arthur was her brother. Her intention was to get pregnant by him and she succeeded. A pregnant Morgause marries King Lot, the man her sister, Morgan, had been engaged to.
Wicked Morgause schemes to keep the child alive because she knows that Lot, who didn't realize Morgause was already pregnant, will be furious when he discovers the identity of the child's real father She gives birth way too early for it to have been his. He is away when she delivers and comes home furious. Morgause had planned for this, though. She had her son hidden away elsewhere and put another baby in his stead. The furious king kills the child, then Morgause tells him that it was his own child he killed – a child by one of his mistresses. At Morgause's urging, he orders all of the babies in the kingdom killed so he can be sure and kill the child she birthed, the child whose father is Arthur, is killed. And they spread word that it is Arthur that ordered their murders.
Merlin calms down the bad talk spreading about King Arthur. He figures out that Morgause has seen to it that her child, Mordred, escaped the massacre. He is still alive and hidden away somewhere.
Meanwhile, Arthur is busy. He has decided to move his place of residence to Camelot and has his men busy restoring it. He falls in love with Guinever, a young girl of fifteen and marries her. She immediately become pregnant; both she and the child die during childbirth. Later on, after he has been without a wife for a while, he is urged to remarry. This time he marries Guinevere, the Guinevere that we have all heard associated with Arthur.
Morgan, betrayed by both Lot and Morgause, marries King Urbgen, a much older man. Morgause attends the wedding and manages not only to drug the wine Merlin drinks at the feast, but also some wine which he will be carrying with him to drink later. He is on a journey to Galava when he partakes of more of the drugged wine. When his escorts think him asleep and go away for just a moment, Merlin slips away from them and disappears for 7 months.
Once Merlin heals, he returns to Camelot. He finds a piece of land not too far away and has his own place built. Once there, he takes on a young boy as a student. At least he thinks it is a boy. Later, through Arthur, Merlin finds out it is a young lady. He has been blinded by love. He and the young lady immediately fall into each others arms and become lovers.
When Arthur reveals this to Merlin, Merlin in turn reveals something to Arthur about Guinevere. For me, this was the most touching part of the book. He lets Arthur know that Guinevere has a lover that she takes to her bed while Arthur is gone. Much to Merlin's surprise, Arthur already knows this. He replies that Guinevere is a young woman with needs. She cannot be expected to sleep alone in a bed for the long periods of time that he is gone. Both Guinevere and her lover are faithful to him. If she has to take someone else to her bed, Arthur is glad of her choice. He will not put a stop to it, but neither will they find out he knows. It would destroy a friendship.
In the last part of the book, Merlin supposedly dies and is buried in the Crystal Cave. Morgause is summoned to Camelot, along with all five of her sons, by Arthur. In order to find out if Merlin has really died and to find out the reason that Morgause has been summoned to Camelot, you must read the book yourself. If you would like to purchase a copy of The Last Enchantment, I have provided a link to Amazon below.