This has to be the most graphic of the quartet so far in as much as there are deaths, executions and torture.
Stort has to find the Gem of Autumn before Samhain otherwise the world will tear itself apart. Where is the wretched thing and why does the Tapestry of the Seasons keep getting poor old Stort literally tied up?
The Emperor, Slaeke Sinistral has renounced his role and now Blut is the Emperor. However, he has a jealous enemy at his side one who is plotting his downfall. Blut is no fool though and realises it is better to keep your friends close and your enemies closer! The idea is for the Fyrd to invade Brum and take it over completely. Unexpectedly Arthur Foale, Jack and Kathleen's adopted Father appears in the Hyddenworld. He is taken prisoner along with Blut and they are both left in a bunker where they get on like a house on fire. They are rescued and then the story really takes off.
I think that William Horwood really loves our planet and this book is a metaphor in some ways about how we treat her. His knowledge of pagan festivals is excellent too.
I highly recommend this book and can't wait for the last one to be written/printed.
This third part of the series, starts slowly and fills in all the backstory that you might have missed, if you haven't read the two preceeding books. It was a useful re-cap however and though I had read the previous parts, there were things I had forgotten - it all helps to return you to the Hyddenworld and creates that atmosphere.
What makes this series unique is that while it is squarely set in "Fantasy" territory, the concentration on detailed descriptions of real places in Britain and occasionally mainland Europe, makes for a very distinct sense of place. We have such vivid pictures of the world that sits alongside our own and this time we also get a sense of the effect on our own world, as we start with Arthur and a crisis that drags him out of his home and into a top secret military base.
The book has the usual humour and affectionate portraits of the odd "Hydden" who help the main players in the story : Jack, Katherine and their daughter Judith who is doomed to live her whole life in one year - the year of these four books. But as we live through Autumn and feel the approach of a Winter that might bring ultimate destruction - along the lines of a "Revelations"-style, end of the world - the tone gets darker.
"Harvest" is appropriately all about aging and how we cope with it. Judith is aging rapidly and it causes her fury - the Emperor in exile, Sinaestral, finally gives in to the aging process and we follow Arthur at the end of his life. In the middle of this we have Stort - who finds that he has fallen in love with Judith, but that seems doomed to be unrequited due to her rapid aging. Maybe Stort will find a way to deal with this - maybe he won't - how we cope with aging and death are the real quests at the heart of this part.
Apart from this, we have a discussion about the nature of music and its power, which remains unresolved at the end of this episode and the small matter of all-out war - which gives this third part, its narrative drive. As the main protagonists race against time to save their capital city, Brum and protect the people from the terrifying Fyrd who ravage the land. Ultimately it all must be resolved by Samhain (Halloween) and this means that the pace picks up dramatically towards the end of the book and it becomes a gripping page-turner.
All in all, a very enjoyable series and I can't wait for the next one. Well-written and not afraid to tackle big issues as well as creating an enticing alternative Britain, in the 'cracks' of human civilisation. Highly recommended.
on 9 October 2012
This is the third novel in the Hyddenworld series - a quadrilogy or tetralogy of books by the acclaimed fantasy (and other genres) writer William Horwood. He is probably best known for his premier and seminal work Duncton Wood.
The final, as yet untitled, book in the Hyddenworld series is due to be published in Winter 2013. The four books have appeared in the appropriate seasons commencing in Spring 2010 and the initial book was entitled Spring. This was published as a paperback with a matching cover to the next two hardbacks with quite a few revisions. The next book which was originally advertised with the title Summer appeared as Awakening as this was a more accurate title and this latest and much-anticipated book was going to be called Autumn but has the title Harvest. In addition the covers of the four books which were advertised at the start of the series with a photographic woodland style have been changed and apart from the initial hardback they have appeared with a subtle and graceful plantlike graphic style. However, the discarded designs and the published ones have all had the gold disc pendant in the centre of the design which reflects the relevant number of seasonal gems that have to be found by the Hydden heroes in order for an increasingly chaotic and wounded Earth to be tamed as both humans and hydden suffer.
Beornamund, the greatest of the Craftlords or makers of objects of power, is crucial to the development of the story which is set in the present day and tells of the Hydden as well as the Humans who have lost the ability to perceive the Hobbit-like Hydden. Another connection to Tolkien is surely his rings of power and the creations of Beornamund.
Horwood is a writer of true craft with lyrical descriptions but not a wasted word to be glimpsed. This book is for those who have read the earlier two in the series and any comments that ruined in any way the enjoyment of the tale would be unforgivable.
The beautiful writing of this story and the two preceding books will hopefully ensure that William Horwood has a success to rival his Duncton books and a creation that will become a classic.
I've previously praised William Horwood's Hyddenworld series, a quartet of novels about the 'hydden' - the small people who have lived secretly alongside humans for thousands of years, adept at 'hyddening' to make themselves go unnoticed. Each book corresponds to a different season and an increasingly urgent quest to recover four missing gems that will, ultimately restore the Earth to its natural balance and avert the end of time.
That description makes the books sound rubbish. But bear with me: they aren't. They're rooted in British folklore and landscape, with an underlying environmental theme, and draw on ancient history and pre-Christian traditions. The characters, both human and hydden, are vividly realised, and the books seem to me to have more in common with, say, Watership Down, or Horwood's own Duncton Wood series, than they do with 'high' fantasy.
The latest Hyddenworld book is Harvest, the Autumn instalment in the quartet, and picks up the story pretty much where the previous book, Awakening, left off. I think most people would struggle to get to grips with Harvest if they hadn't read Hyddenworld and Awakening first; however, in case they haven't, there does appear to be a fair bit of recapping and exposition in Harvest which might grate a little on some readers who are familiar with the previous two novels - although personally I found it useful, as the Hyddenworld quartet is epic in scale with a huge cast of characters and a complex back-story of mythology and it's been around 18 months since I read Awakening.
Harvest is the darkest Hyddenworld novel so far. With a military coup putting the ancient hydden city of Brum in danger from the vicious Fyrd, and the Earth herself apparently wreaking revenge on humanity with a series of natural disasters, Harvest has its fair share of deaths, and there are times when much-loved characters suffer. However, there's still plenty of the warmth and hope and charm that has characterised the series so far, and once again, love in its truest and purest sense is a strong thread that runs through the narrative. There are heroes and villains, but as always, Horwood makes most of his characters far more complex than that, and it's not unusual for them to surprise us.
The novel starts relatively slowly - as did its predecessors - but builds to a conclusion that is genuinely nail-biting stuff as eccentric hero Bedwyn Stort races to find the gem of Autumn before Samhain and Brum battles the Fyrd. I can't wait to see what Winter brings for the Hyddenworld.
on 21 January 2014
Harvest is the third book of William Horwood's Hyddenworld series, following on from Spring and Awakening. These three, along with the recently published Winter, mark the author's return to writing after a considerable pause. Those that have read and loved his tales of Duncton or the very moving Skallagrigg, amongst others, will be delighted to see him back in print, especially as many of the older books are no longer available.
The flow of time of the Hydden, the little people that live unseen at the edge of the human world in William Horwood's Hyddenworld series, might seem laborious to us, accustomed as we are to rushing from one event to another without taking the time to stop and look and listen. Maybe it is this failure to pause and savour life to the fullest that contributes most to our inability to see and appreciate the Hydden and their way of life. For the reader of Horwood's book the difficulty is similar. Weened as we are on the breakneck speed of modern films and TV series, as well as books such as The Hunger Games or Divergent, slowing to the pace of Horwood's narrative can be challenging. But slow you must if you want to enter this world full of unimaginable richness and delightful lightness, not to mention profound wisdom.
Or so I thought as I began Harvest! Then I was abruptly whisked off my feet and whirled away in eddies of action and a flood of emotions. All is not a whirlwind, though. The pace of Harvest varies often. The action reaches an apotheosis when the Earth heaves up wreaking vengeance on a town who citizens remain oblivious to the very last, while the main characters look on, deeply touched by the cataclysm but unable to move. Yet in those moments when the story picks up speed, and that was what intrigued me, it didn't skim precariously over emptiness as many fast-paced novel do. It had depth to its intensity.
As an author, I couldn't help searching from the roots of that intensity in the language. Several possibilities were apparent. The restrained use of dialogue and the brilliance of the descriptions of people and places often built around action and verbs. But above all, the power of Horwood's writing lies in his challenge of the self-evident, in the density and richness of his imaginings and finally, the depth and delightfulness of an astounding range of main characters.
When I reached the end of Harvest, it was not the hallmark emptiness left behind by those helter-skelter, breath-taking novels that awaited me, but rather a dense and satisfying plenitude. All was far from right, Winter was yet to come and losses had to be mourned, but William Horwood's book had nourished me in a way that left me feeling richer and more human.
Review first published on Secret Paths.
on 13 May 2014
Often with the middle installments of a series you get the feeling of marking time between the beginning and the end and a sense of padding, but that's certainly not the case here.
With most of the main protagonists already well-established there is little need for any filling in and backstory so the narrative and pacing are strong right from the beginning.
There are 2 main threads to the storyline - the Fyrd are about to invade Brum and Bedwyn Stort must find the Gem of Autumn and return it to the Sheild-Maiden by Samhain (the end of October) but there are many side-alleys and diversions along the way before the end.
I enjoyed this book very much, at times happy, sad and shocking in equal measure, it's William Horwood at his best. As with all his books, you need to be prepared to invest your time, but settle back and enjoy the ride because before you know it you'll be turning the last few pages (quite possibly with a tear in your eye...) and you'll be reaching for the final book as you'll want to know how it all ends.
on 3 May 2013
For a series which comes out to coincide with the seasons this has sustained interest and kept the story going really well. You have to have started at the beginning to follow the complex ins and outs but it is a great tale well told, the main characters Jack, Katherine and Stort are truly heroic with Stort a stand out eccentric worthy of Tolkien or Pratchett. It is not an easy read but it is really worth the effort. Recommended to all lovers of folklore , fantasy or just a really good story well told.
on 9 June 2013
Like all Horwood's books that I've read, Harvest pulls you into its story and keeps you there until the very end. Darker in some ways than the other Hyddenworld books, but not so graphic as to be disturbing, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
The final outcome is predictable - the main characters have a gem to find, there's not really any doubt that they will do so. But it's the journey there that makes Harvest so captivating.
on 12 March 2013
The third book in the saga, still manages to keep the action and suspense up.
Jack and Katherine are trying to find the Autumn gem to pass to their daughter Judith, whilst involved in protecting Brum from the attack of the Fyrd. Lots of stuff going on, and multiple characters to follow, and the book takes a darker twist with betrayal within the Empire.
A really good series, it is a blend of urban fantasy and Tolkien. Looking forward to the final instalment.
on 9 November 2014
Read this a while ago, but love this series. I might have read every book written by William Horwood as he writes stories with greater depth and insight than most. I feel gifted by such an author! Sangita