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The Weirdstone of Brisingamen: A Tale of Alderley    by Alan Garner order for
Weirdstone of Brisingamen
by Alan Garner
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2006 (1969)
Hardcover, Softcover

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*   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Earlier this year, I reviewed an adult fantasy novel that made reference to many classic (mostly British) children's fantasies. Since reading it, it has bothered me that I could place all of the references except for one - to Colin and Susan. Having just read Alan Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, I now know who Colin and Susan are.

When their mother is summoned to join their father out of the country for six months, siblings Colin and Susan are sent off to the village of Alderley to say with their mother's old nurse and her husband on their farm. The farm is situated on the outskirts of a large wood called The Edge, so of course the children must explore. On one excursion into the forest, the children meet Cadellin, a wizard entrusted with guarding a slumbering band of knights with white steeds. After Cadellin rescues them from some pretty nasty creatures, he confides in the two children that he has lost the stone - the Weirdstone of Brisingamen - needed to rouse the knights from their slumber.

Even though it has been lost for centuries, it has never been a problem until now. It seems some evil witches and warlocks have decided to steal the stone so that the knights cannot be used to fight evil. When the children are almost kidnapped by a neighbor, they realize that the stone on Susan's family heirloom bracelet is the Weirdstone. However, before they can get the stone to Cadellin, it is stolen. Now the children, with the help of some dwarf friends, must get the stone back before a great evil arrives in Alderley.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen was Garner's first book, and it shows. Deus ex machinae abound as characters and objects are added when convenient to the story with either a hastily slopped together exposition or no explanation at all. Many facts are just thrown out at the reader and can be easily missed if not read in depth, especially the ending. Also, the tale of the knights which begins the story is all but forgotten by the end, except in the author's Afterword in which Garner explains that it's a local fable in the area where he grew up - Alderley.

Having read The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, I have to wonder how it became a classic in children's fantasy. It could be that when it was written in 1960, there were not as many wonderful fantasies as there are today after the resurgence in the early 2000s. If this is the case, I suspect that Garner's First Tale of Alderley - which is not as strong as previous children's fantasy offerings like C. S. Lewis's Narnia books or E. Nesbit's imaginative tales - will fall by the wayside to make way for new classics that are yet to be determined.

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