“It was bleak on Mottram road under the Edge, the wooded hill of Alderley.”
I still have my inherited, old and very battered, paperback copy of The Weirdstone of Brisingman. In fact, when I was writing my own first NaNoWriMo effort, I liberally ‘borrowed’ a half-remembered scene of the characters being trapped underground, one that’s stuck with me through perhaps three decades. When I went back to reread the book – in shiny new eBook format, so my bashed paperback didn’t have to disintegrate any further! – I discovered the scene was at most a few lines, with nothing like the dark intensity it had grown to in my mind.
I also discovered that Alan Garner had written two sequels, the last of which only a few years ago. So of course I wanted to find out if the other books would be equally impactful!
Gomrath again follows Susan and Colin and the magic of Alderley Edge. There are hints that the two children have been trying and failing to reconnect with the magical creatures they encountered in Weirdstone – hugely underplayed, and yet instantly creating that sense of longing for something more wondrous in the world.
Of course, it’s not long before the magic not only arrives, but sweeps both children into terrible danger. The Morrigan wasn’t fully vanquished at the end of the previous adventures, and now she wants revenge – and she’s brought a few ‘friends’ along!
Driven by subtle manipulation and their own hopes, Susan and Colin manage to meddle where they should not, awakening the Wild Hunt. Can their old friends – practical dwarves and wizards of high magic – help them stand against such old magic?
Gomrath was never going to have quite the impact of a book I remembered from childhood, but it was a lovely, if dark, little read. The telling is rather quaint and old-fashioned, but that in itself really resonated for me. The story itself is an odd mix of much, much older fairy tales and myths that it’s a little odd to read some of it – the Wild Hunt, for instance, showed up rather more recently in a Dresden Files book! And yet, it works: the briefness of the telling leaves a lot for the reader’s imagination to work around, and the whole thing conjures up a deliciously dark nostalgia, both for my own childhood imagination and the Enid Blyton-esque period of children allowed off on adventures that would make the adults balk!
Not sure if today’s kids would take to this, but those of us ever young at heart could do worse 🙂
“And for to passe the tyme thys book shal be plesaunte to rede in, but for to gyve fayth and byleve that al is trewe that is conteyned herein, yet be at your lyberté.” William Caxton, 1485
Kindle: 227 pages / 20 chapters
First published: 1963
Series: Alderley book 2 of 3
Read from 26th-28th April 2016
My rating: 7/10