BOOK REVIEW – ALAN GARNER – THE WEIRDSTONE OF BRISINGAMEN 1960 Harper Collins.
A popular fantasy novel, aimed at children, but loved by many adults too. The unusual angle here is the evocatively, and very precisely described ordinary rural setting, as opposed to a distant realm of Fairie or an alternative universe. The adventure takes place entirely around the very real Alderley Edge, in Cheshire, England, where the author grew up.
A farmer, taking his white horse to market by paths over the Edge, finds himself waylaid by a powerful wizard, Cadellin Silverbrow, (Merlin), who needs such a horse for his sleeping army, who are resting underground until the battle of Ragnorak. The farmer is shown the sleeping knights, and the wizard’s collection of powerful and expensive jewellery, and he sells the wizard his horse, but he also steals a small amulet, Firefrost, (the Weirdstone of the book’s title). Generations later, the Firefrost has become an heirloom, and the possession of a young girl, Susan.
Colin & Susan are sent to stay with he kindly farmer, Gowther. While their parents are away overseas. The amulet’s return to Alderley brings dark forces to action, and the children (and later their guardian), find themselves pursued by powerful and demonic forces, as the wizard’s allies struggle to protect them. Neighbours, the birds in the sky and scarecrows in the fields cannot be trusted, so who can? And where is the wizard himself?
There are many exciting chases, and a very claustrophobic pursuit through the deep copper mines that run under Alderley (I have visited these and the descriptions are absolutely spot on). An eerie and evocative read, and one that will return to haunt anyone who later visits the Edge itself, or who has already been to this wonderful place.
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