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The Crown of Dalemark (Oxford Children's Modern Classics) Paperback – 7 Sep 2000
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|Paperback, 7 Sep 2000||
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The final book in the "Dalemark Quartet", which consists of four fantasy novels set in the mysterious world of Dalemark.
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As you'd expect, this fourth book concludes the plotlines of its three predecessors. It focusses on two characters - Mitt, from the second novel, and a new character, Maewen. The former has been sent off to assassinate a young woman who claims to be the daughter of an ancient god, and wants to reclaim the crown of the divided kingdom of Dalemark. The latter has been transported back from 200 years in the future, to take the place of said young woman on the quest. The book also sees the return of other characters, such as the musician Moril and the semi-gods Tanaqui and Duck.
The trouble is, it has to bring together four quite different, separate storylines into a cohesive whole, which it never quite manages. The previous three novels were all compelling in their own ways, as each had a discrete, clear story arc with plenty of drama. This one suffers from the number of characters, the difficulty I had remembering the past storylines, and the need to reconcile all the plot threads. Despite the peril the characters were in, it never really had the feeling of breathless excitement that some of her other novels do.
It was still a good read in general, but it lacks the brilliance of some of Wynne-Jones's novels.
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There are two main characters in this book -- Mitt, also one of the heroes of book 2 (_Drowned Ammet_), and Maewen, and girl from the future of Dalemark -- a time very roughly corresponding to our own time in terms of technological development. Maewen, while visiting her father (her parents are separated), meets a couple of strange individuals. One, she soon learns, is Kankredin, the evil wizard from _The Spellcoats_, while the other is another of the Undying. This character maneuvers her back into the past, to take the place of Noreth, a girl from Mitt's time who looks just like Maewen. Noreth was a descendant of the rightful King of Dalemark, and she had planned to find the four objects that only the King can use (a cup, a ring, a sword, and a crown) and reclaim the Crown of Dalemark and reunite the sundered kingdom. But Noreth disappeared before she could accomplish this, and Maewen must walk the roads of Dalemark to find these objects in her place. The powers that be, naturally enough, oppose Noreth's quest, and she is stalked by assassins. One of these is Mitt, who is blackmailed by his Northern hosts into going after Noreth -- but after meeting her Mitt refuses, and soon he joins her tiny entourage, along with the hero of Book 1 (_Cart and Cwidder_): Moril the Singer, as well as another Singer, and the clever but perhaps not trustworthy southern nobleman who was also exiled to the North with Mitt, and the Undying who has sent Maewen here.
Maewen, Mitt, and the others wander about the countryside, often in rather magical fashion, tracking down the four objects, but also trying to elude the assassins, and eventually armies, which are trying to stop. Maewen's only goal is to give the objects to the man she knows became king: Amil the Great, the man who more or less singlehandedly founded modern Dalemark. But who could he be? There is no sign of him. The resolution is surprising and rather effective. Jones makes excellent use of the rather unusual magic "system" (though it's not really systematic, and is perhaps more effective for that) that she has established, especially the Undying, who are like gods but not by any means omnipotent or even all-knowing. The four books represent a very solid work of YA fantasy.