A Darker Magic This Way Comes is born of my secret passion for ancient history, Roman archaeology and in particular the legends of King Arthur and his magician, Merlin. I was always active in public life where I’ve had some very difficult jobs in human rights and child protection so for me there had to be a place of peace. Somewhere I could escape to. I found that peace through meditation and reading the myths of Arthur and Merlin. I have picked apart almost all the books ever written or associated with the stories of Arthurian Britain. I have climbed Iron Age forts all over the United Kingdom asking myself whether Merlin could have retrofitted this fort for Arthur and his knights. Meanwhile I dragged my patient and supportive husband all over the south-west of England, particularly in Devon and Cornwall and the towns of Exeter and Glastonbury.
Arthur and Merlin became alive in my mind but some other figures surprised me. There is the wondrous Arianrhod, a weaver of dreams and the goddess of the Northern Lights, who spends most of her life spying from the ceiling in the guise of a spider. And there is Uther Pendragon, Arthur’s father, who kept elbowing his way in just like the third child that he was, crying out “what about ME?” How could I ignore this red headed giant who was full of vigor and charm? I began to feel like I knew them all. Eventually, I channeled all my enthusiasm for these characters into A Darker Magic This Way Comes. I wrote the book for young-adults because Merlin first came to me as a time-traveling teenager. Merlin is a polymath, a mesmerizing poet, a child prodigy, a shape-shifting
Photograph by Patrick Moran
apprentice of complex Druidic enchantments and angelic powers– he is about as far away from the Disney version as you can possibly get. He’s hot, he’s young, he’s powerful and he’s a magician who can fly between the realms. And I think I should add that he’s a genius rather like Leonardo da Vinci but bearing a jackdaw on his shoulder and a wand in his hand. Wouldn’t you want to spend time with him? You never know what he will do next because he’s a trickster. As he, himself, says “most of what I will say to you is true, but let me warn you, I can never resist a flash of mischief.”
Merlin meets and falls in love with the daughter of a modern-day archaeologist who is digging the ruins of Okehampton Castle near the wind swept and haunting landscape of Dartmoor. Emily is a headstrong high school girl, as smart as a whip and I really love everything she represents. She dances hip hop, she rides horses, she wears loads of lip gloss, loves tight jeans and she carries her long necked turtle in her bra. But I also like the idea of our modern world and fifth century Britannia being connected to one another by a portal at this ancient site. Our realms are only a whisper apart if, like Merlin, you know the gateways.
Merlin’s time is a dynamic age of climate change and conquest. The seas are rising and people throughout the remains of the Roman Empire are on the move and many of the barbarians are invading Britain. Some were invited to come by a ruthless, corrupt and murderous king from the north, Vortigern, called the Great Betrayer. Merlin, a trained soldier and engineer, advises Kings Uther and Arthur on the defense of Britain from the Saxon, and Jute invaders. It’s also the time of Sir Galahad (sigh!), Prince Lancelot, Queen Guinevere and the Holy Grail. Their passionate loves, brutal wars, intrigues and betrayals and their shining code of honour unexpectedly entangle three of Emily’s friends from Exeter: Toby, Jack and Casey.
In Emily’s time, our technology-filled modern day it is also a time of great transition and possibility and it includes being troubled by disrupted refugees, and that is why they parallel each other so well. There is another connection. You and I live in the time when the warrior Arthur, the once and future king, has chosen to return to deliver us from our enemies. And Arthur is not coming back alone he is bringing his knights and their ladies. Merlin will come first followed by Guinevere and then the Grail knights, Kai, Borholt, Lancelot and Galahad and their ladies Cassandra, Clare, Elaine and Angharad.
Whenever societies are in turmoil the Darkness rears its monstrous head and here it is in the form of Moloch, the Prince of Lies, a being who takes no form but exists as a whirl of putrid air and his accomplice Morgana, a seductive sorceress who wants to kill Emily. Why we don’t know but she begins to suspect it might have something to do with the returning Arthur. Merlin agrees to protect Emily from them. This is how he learns the limits of his magic against their darker magic. Of course, I knew that Emily and Merlin were also linked by their fate - a destiny that breaks the boundaries of time. Emily knows that the man she loves, who gets a squillion hits on Google, died fifteen hundred years ago. Merlin knows that the woman he loves won’t be able to fit into his world. How will they work this out?
I really hope you enjoy reading this first installment of their story. I am working on the sequel as I write...The Curse of the Dragon Kings! It will take me about five books to expose all of Merlin’s Secrets. Merlin says “when you finish reading my secrets you will possess knowledge not known in your world. It will be like re-entering an ancient tomb, buried in a hollow hill, where you can rediscover what you knew long ago. My secrets begin.”
About the Author
In public, Carmel Niland has been a formidable leader, a CEO working for New South Wales state government in Australia, heading multifaceted agencies championing gender and racial equality, human rights, child protection and disability services. In private, Carmel Niland has always been endlessly fascinated with historical legends, particularly the tale of King Arthur and his famed magician Merlin.
For decades Merlin has captivated her imagination. Blending her keen interest in Arthurian legend with a passion for Roman British Archaeology, Carmel Niland has devoured every piece of literature she could get her hands on and visited every Iron Age and Roman Fort in England, Scotland and Wales crossing hill and dale and climbing fortifications if they were in any way associated with Arthur. This desire for knowledge about the once and future king compelled her to use her research to reimagine his and Merlin’s story. Now she has created her first novel based upon the ancient stories. A Darker Magic This Way Comes is the first book in a series of five for readers, who like her, love secrets, mysteries and something strange.