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The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
Alan Garner
Harcourt Brace/Magic Carpet, 288 pages

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
Alan Garner
Alan Garner is the award-winning author of The Moon of Gomrath, Elidor, The Owl Service, and most recently, Strandloper. He has lived most of his life near the Alderley Edge, which is the setting for much of his fantasy work.

Alan Garner Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Moon of Gomrath

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Katharine Mills

Good news for anyone who may be looking for a present for a child they really like -- The Weirdstone of Brisingamen is back in print! This is one of my all-time favourite books. Long after other childhood fantasy books have faded into the mists of memory, The Weirdstone stands proudly on my shelf, badly battered but hauled out for regular visits to the deceptive rural peace of Alan Garner's Cheshire.

With Colin and Susan (children of some indeterminate age between infancy and adolescence) I get off the train at Alderley Station, and am met by Gowther Mossock. We get into his horse-drawn carriage and go up the Edge, to the Mossocks' farmhouse, still lit by candles and lamps, for the Mossocks have not seen fit to change the way of life that suits them...

That is the beginning, and simple enough. Colin and Susan have been sent to stay with the Mossocks because their parents have been called away abroad. At first they -- and we, the readers -- see only the pleasant strangeness of their new home. But we are soon introduced to a deeper strangeness, yet so naturally that it flows out of the story as beautifully as the water of the Wizard's Well.

Garner, who besides being a writer of fiction is also a noted scholar of British folklore, tells us a story at the beginning of the book, a story about a wizard, and a sleeping king, and a farmer from Mobberley who had a milk-white mare. It's a true story -- or at least, a genuine piece of Cheshire folk tradition. And very soon, Colin and Susan discover just how true it really is, and how their lives have accidentally become interwoven with this great magic. For the wizard is real, and the cave where the King sleeps, along with a hundred knights on horseback, who, it is prophesied, will one day save the world.

This is not a typical Arthurian story, nor is it the usual story in which fortunate children leave this world for a more exciting one. Garner finds magic and mystery enough in his familiar English landscape, in the beautiful strangeness of Alderley Edge, in the maze of mines and tunnels that underlies Cheshire. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, a magical stone lost for hundreds of years, has come into the children's possession and makes them a target for the servants of Nastrond, the dark spirit of Ragnarok. Their quest to return the stone to its keeper leads them on a desperate chase through the mines, and into a countryside transformed by a fierce and unseasonable winter. Colin and Susan, dragged bewildered into the magical country interwoven with their own, find themselves on an adventure more thrilling than they have ever dreamed of.

Yet what no review can convey is the solid reality of Garner's English landscape, and the way in which the magical creatures stand squarely on the ground with everyone else. In The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (as with its successor, The Moon of Gomrath) Alan Garner succeeds in the greatest magic of all: creating a world of imagination as absolutely believable as our own.

Copyright © 1998 Katharine Mills

Katharine Mills lives in Waterloo with a lot of ever-widening cats. They (the cats) refuse to watch the bit of Snow White where the animals wash the dishes and dust.

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