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The Merlin Mystery
Jonathan Gunson
Illustrated by Marten Coombe and Jonathan Gunson

Warner Aspect Books, 48 pages

Art: Martin Coombe
The Merlin Mystery
Jonathan Gunson
Jonathan Gunson has written and illustrated 6 children's books, published both in New Zealand and Great Britain. Two of the books were developed into a television series, "Space Knights" and a SF TV serial. "The Boy from Andromeda." He designed TV commercials for several years as a creative director for McCann Erickson, while continuing to create and illustrate books. He lives in Auckland New Zealand, with his wife Anne and two sons.

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A review by Neil Walsh

Is it a book? Is it a puzzle? Is it the best darned marketing ploy in the publishing industry? Well, yes, it's all of those, but it's also a very beautifully done book/puzzle/ploy, and would make an ideal Christmas gift for someone who appreciates a good brain-teaser.

The premise underlying The Merlin Mystery is quite simple: Merlin's wand is missing, and your job is to find it. Pictures and words contained within this book provide the necessary clues to the Alchemist's Spell and the method of casting it. Be the first to puzzle it out, and claim your prize: both the wand, and $125,000US in cash!

The premise is simple; the mystery is not. It has been cleverly devised by Jonathan Gunson and Marten Coombe, and validated by Mensa. It is, apparently, solvable, although I confess the answer didn't leap out at me. After January 1, 1999, entries will begin to be judged in the order in which they have been received. If no winner is found, the contest will continue until December 31, 2001, or until the correct solution is received -- whichever comes first.

There is something of a story, although it doesn't have an ending, per se, as that's your job. It's likely to appeal to fans of fantasy, but I found the story to be somewhat cryptic. Of course, that might be because I was trying to see clues in every turn of phrase.

The artwork, however, is quite stunning both in its quality and in its complexity of visual detail, similar in style to the work of Graeme Base -- the Animalia artist. All in all, it's a beautifully packaged product, sure to challenge the cleverest of treasure hunters.

Copyright © 1998 by Neil Walsh

Neil Walsh is the Reviews Editor for the SF Site. He lives in contentment, surrounded by books, in Ottawa, Canada.

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