I sympathize with those who were confused or lost by this book. I appreciate those who were willing to just go with the flow and enjoy the words and the mood. A suggestion is in order.
If you really want to enjoy this book you have to start with the tale of Taliesin and Ceridwen. Taliesin is the great poet of ancient Wales and most great Welsh story myths begin and end with him and the Mabinogion, written or compiled around the 1350's and the oldest popularly available compendium of medieval and iron age Welsh myth and poetry, some of which dates to the 900's. Not to be a wise guy but if you just look up Taliesin in Wikipedia you will find an excellent summary of the Ceridwen story. That will illuminate many of the story lines in this book. Taliesin, (actually his alter ego Gwion Bach), stole the three drops from the magic cauldron before Ceridwen could receive them and so he received wisdom enchantment, magic and divination. Then, "all too soon he heard her fury and the sound of her pursuit. He turned himself into a hare on the land and she became a greyhound. He turned himself into a fish and jumped into a river: she then turned into an otter. He turned into a bird in the air, and in response she became a hawk." See, "Darkhenge" is starting to make sense, and we can start following Taliesin/Vetch and Ceridwen/Clare and so on.
The other thing going on is this. Almost all of the stories in the Mabinogion, the Red Book, the White Book and so on are fragments. You can read them over and over; you can read them in the original Welsh, but they don't have traditional beginnings and middles and ends. They aren't internally consistent. They have a non-linear, confusing, pasted together feeling. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and enjoy the "feel" of the story. That's why you have reviewers complaining of the same sort of thing with this book. That episodic, ambiguous, vaguely confused feeling arises naturally from the underlying material.
This isn't like turning "Romeo and Juliet" into "West Side Story". Your source material is just mismatched pieces. That's why people can make books and movies about Arthur that are all over the place - the Arthur stories are all over the place. And having a character named "Merlin" isn't enough. This is always a problem with modernizing and redoing the Welsh tales. There have been some notable successes: Susan Cooper's "Dark Is Rising" sequence, Jenny Nimmo's "Magician Trilogy", some parts of Lloyd Alexander's books, Alan Garner's "The Owl Service", and a host of lesser efforts.
In that light this book does a remarkably good job of staying close to the Ceridwen story and emulating the mood and story telling thrust of the originals, while bringing the story up to date for modern sensibilities. (By the way, all of the tree bits come from "The Battle of the Trees" an epic Welsh poem about a mighty battle that sets out the bravery, courage, strength and weaknesses of all the different types of trees that participated. It is a genuine masterpiece and a delight to see how it was used here.)
So, if you give up linear thinking for a while, embrace the idea of an ambiguous and episodic plot, and abandon closure in favor of inspiration, you may very well really really enjoy this book. Da darllen! (Good read!)
on 26 July 2005
Slightly reminiscent of one of my other favourite books, Alan Garner's Owl Service, this is a fabulous book about the explosive emotions of adolescence and the traps of sibling rivalry cunning interwoven with druidic mythology. I've only previously read the rather younger Snow Walker books by Fisher, but I am seriously impressed by Darkhenge. It has a great deal to offer to early teen readers - both male and female - and is full of rich, poetic writing. I also think there are a fair few Strange & Norrel and Philip Pullman reading adults who will find this utterly compelling. This deserves cross-over readership too.
on 3 April 2005
The author has said herself that she's writing books for an older audience these days and this is aimed at teenagers though good for all ages.
Don't expect anything throw away from Catherine Fisher. She knows too much about myth and how it helps us make sense of our lives to produce anything lightweight.
I can't wait for the last in the Oracle trilogy
on 28 March 2007
Brilliant! Catherine Fisher yet again cleverly demonstrates her skill with words in literally transporting you into another world of mystery, love, and adventure.
Rob is a talented teen artist, on school holidays after his exams (GCSEs?), when his little sister Chloe has a nasty riding accident and ends up in a coma. Normal life is put on hold for Rob, his parents and his godfather, Father Mac, as they try to come to terms with the accident and reach Chloe in her coma. Based in Wiltshire, the ancient monuments of Avebury, West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill and the Ridgeway all play a part in this intriguing tale.
One evening Rob finds himself drawn into a group of druids at Avebury, meeting "Vetch" from the "Unworld". Vetch belives he has the answer to pulling Chloe back from her coma, but it involves trespassing onto the archaeological dig where Rob is working as an artist, recording the finds and structure as they are unearthed by the dig team. Can they reach Chloe before she ventures further into the Unworld? Can Rob save his sister?
A wonderful story, and a must read for young teens suffering with sibling rivalry or jealousy.
Rob's younger sister, Chloe, has been in a coma for three months. The prognosis is not good for her recovery. Rob is riddled with guilt over the fact that he has always come first in their parents' eyes. He also feels guilty that his thoughts turn to the wish that she would pass on to let everyone get on with their lives.
Then one evening he stumbles upon some New Ager-type people. They have entered a clearing outside his town and ask him for the secret word. He has no idea what they are talking about, and the only word that comes to mind is "Chloe." This is not the word they were seeking. Instead, another mysterious man enters the clearing and asks Rob for assistance. The group again seeks the magical word. This time, the mysterious man, Vetch, mutters "Darkhenge," the word that was requested.
With the entrance of Vetch, a journey begins for all involved. Vetch is from the Unworld and is trying to get back. Archeologists in Rob's town have uncovered the Darkhenge and are trying to destroy it. The unlikely group must band together to save the Darkhenge and return Vetch to his world. Vetch reveals to Rob that his sister, Chloe, is being held in the Unworld and he can help Rob return her to his world, if he helps Vetch return to Unworld.
But the quest is met with obstacles in our world and in Unworld. The quest will be challenging and dangerous in many ways. The most unexpected twist is that Chloe may not want to return to the world she knows.
DARKHENGE is an imaginative dark tale of magic and dual worlds. Each of the main characters has many demons they must face, both real and imagined. The story moves quickly to a satisfying ending. Ms. Fisher has a creative imagination that leaves the reader wanting to experience more of her work.
Reviewed by: Jaglvr
on 14 January 2010
'Darkhenge' is about a boy called Rob, whose sister is in a coma in hospital. However, she is not really in hospital, only her physical form is. Rob meets a strange guy called Vetch, who tells him where his sister REALLY is. It's quite hard to tell anymore about the story because I might give it away.
This story has two parts in it alongside each other - Rob's story and his sister's story. I had never come across this before, but I liked it, because it was like two stories joined together to form one whole one.
This story was set in Silbury in the county of Wiltshire. This made the story more familiar to me because I go there frequently. Therefore, I had a personal connection with the book, so this might have been why this book was extra exciting for me.
You should read this book, because it has an interesting plot which turns on itself halfway through and is unpredictable at times.
on 6 July 2009
... and thoroughly enjoyed!
I have previously read Corbenic by Catherine Fisher and that has to be one of my all time favourite books, so I thought I'd give another of hers a go.
While I would say this didn't have the same depth as Corbenic (which literally had me in tears at one point) it's just as gripping in the kind of "oh, just one more chapter" sense - even though it's gone midnight!
She certainly knows her stuff here too, from the references to myth, druidry, plants and even the names of artist's colours. Catherine effortlessly paints pictures right in front of your eyes, and conveys the charecters thoughts and feelings so well, that it's impossible not to be drawn in.
A read I heartily recommend, and at 29 - it's definately not just for kids!
on 10 July 2009
This book is a slightly unusual story that blends a bit of Celtic mythology with a kind of alternate world romp. The Welsh legend of Gwionbach and Ceridwen is the inspiration for the conflict in the novel, but that legend is completely re-imagined to make something that is fresh and new.
There was also a powerful human story here - not so original, but then the best stories never are.
It was not the best novel I ever read, but I would still recommend it.