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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 26 July 2000
This is easily my favourite of the Dalemark Quartet, and can be read separately from the others as it is set in the prehistory of the country that will become Dalemark. Part of the pleasure is only understanding a little bit faster than the narrator just how special the family that is sailing down the River is. The plot is believable and the twists thrilling, the atmosphere of the world is convincing, the characters are wonderful, the things that happen affect them as they would real people (these are not boring superhuman hero types)- in short it is a typical Diana Wynne Jones book. Please read it.
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on 31 May 2002
"The Spellcoats" is the first book I read in the Dalemark Series, written by Diana Wynne Jones, although it is not the first book (in reading order) of the series. The world of Dalemark is a detailed, believable but undoubtedly strange and magical creation. The compelling strangeness of the world is perhaps most obvious in this title, although the others of the quartet ("Drowned Ammet", "Cart and Cwidder" and "The Crown of Dalemark") are also filled with the otherworldly and strangely poignant atmosphere of that world.
Dalemark is not a typical fantasy world, although it has the conventional elements of evil to fight, hereos to fight that evil, and battles which must be won and lost. Within "The Spellcoats" the enemies are found not simply within the army which is invading the country, and the danger is not merely that of war. There are deep magics which threaten the Great River, which is the soul of the country, as well as posing a potent threat the family of the narrator, Tanaqui (whose name means younger sister). The Undying (Dalemark's gods) are being sucked dry and Tanaqui and her brothers and sister discover that they are the only ones with any hope of saving the soul and life of their home.
The heroes of all the Dalemark books are children, and the series is primarily written for children, although adults will certainly not find the plots too simplistic to be interesting. The promblems which most be solved for "good" to triumph vary from the physical to the magical, and finally the moral. Children from the age of nine or ten will enjoy this book, and probably re-read it for many years to come, getting more and more out of it each time. Adult will also enjot it, in perhaps a quieter way, and both adults and children should also have a keen interest in obtaining the otheres in the series......
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on 10 February 2012
Really struggled with this for some reason, having enjoyed 1 and 2 in the series. It's a lot more ambitious, fantasy-wise, than the first two, with quite heavy mystical and magical concepts (souls captured inside dolls, magical rivers and wizards etc).

It feels more Ursula Le Guin in places than a simple kids' romp, and comparisons between this author and the Potter books are well wide of the mark in my opinion. I think I prefer Rowling's books as I can switch of my brain and enjoy the ride. Too often with this series I find myself re-reading paragraphs of tentacle-like, back-to-front sentences to check I got it right. Clever and thick with detail - yes. Comparable to Rowling's stuff? Not at all.

Will definitely read again soon to check I haven't been too harsh!
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on 9 October 2010
This is a very intriguing story of siblings on a journey in the olden days. It is told from the perspective of one of the sisters which makes it very absorbing and more real seeming. One of my favourite books, it's a great start to the dalemark quartet and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy adventure stories about families who are relatable.
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on 21 November 2010
I've read a number of Diana Wynne Jones' books and thought I knew what to expect. This was quite different. I didn't warm to it at first and thought it slow moving and odd. It didn't seem to link with the others in the quartet either. I grew to like it at some point and book four brought them all together beautifully. Less accessible than her other books and rather strange but worth it if you stick it out. If I hadn't bought all four together on the strength of the author's name I wouldn't have bothered with the rest and would have missed out.
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on 27 December 2015
I was very pleased with the quality of this hardback book. It arrived on the very last day of the promised delivery time. I am enjoying reading it !
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on 8 September 2014
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