Harcourt, 2006 (1965)
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Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto
any YA fantasies feature young people called upon to save other worlds, and Alan Garner's
is no exception. While the theme may be tried and true - even when this book was written in 1965 - Garner succeeds in keeping the reader engaged in his delightful story about the Watson siblings, who are unwittingly entrusted with saving the land of Elidor.
ent out of their Manchester house on moving day, and running wild through the streets of London, the four Watsons come across an old church ready to be demolished. Forced to enter after a soccer ball they found breaks a window, the quartet find themselves led by a strange fiddler into another land - the kingdom of Elidor. Darkness is creeping over Elidor. Three of its four castles have already lost their light and the fourth is about to. The fiddler, explaining that the siblings fulfill part of an ancient prophesy, entrusts each of them with a treasure - a spear, a sword, a stone, and a cup - then sends them back into their world. Back in London, the treasures turn into odd bits of refuse, but the Watsons are determined to keep them safe. However, once they move to the country, they learn that the items will never be safe - and neither will they - until the prophesy is completely fulfilled.
ne thing that distinguishes
from other YA fantasy is the amount of time the siblings actually spend in the alternate realm. Out of twenty chapters, only three are spent in Elidor - the majority of the story takes place in London and the countryside. Because of this, the land of Elidor is not as fully developed as many other alternate worlds, but the fantasy in the story shines brilliantly through to modern-day England.
hile Garner weaves a highly engaging story, he does end it rather abruptly. It stops almost immediately after the Watsons complete their task without wrapping up loose ends - mainly how they explain their trashed house and being in London in the middle of the night to their parents. Also, modern readers might have a hard time understanding an important event in the book, where the TV goes on the fritz and they play with the contrast and vertical and horizontal holds. However,
has survived the last forty years well and will still be a favorite among young fantasy readers today.
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