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Cart and Cwidder

(The Dalemark Quartet #1)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  5,158 ratings  ·  253 reviews
Diana Wynne Jones provides a haunting tale of three young siblings cast adrift when their minstrel father is killed. Only the mystical power of the large cwidder Moril inherits can save them.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 1993 by Mammoth (first published 1975)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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This is the first installment in Diana Wynne Jones’ epic Dalemark Quartet. I first read this series when I was 13 or 14 (which is the intended age group), and I remember being so swept up in these books, they remained in my “favorites of all-time” for many years afterward and began my lifelong love of epic, multi-volume fantasy. Of course, revisiting something you LOVED when you were in middle school is always a gamble. So, the real question is: did it hold up?


And no.

Cart and Cwidd
I've heard vague things about the Dalemark Quartet for a long time ( with so many things I read, I suppose), and today seemed the perfect time to start, while I was procrastinating from my dissertation. It doesn't feel quite like any other Diana Wynne Jones book I can think of: there's something rather serious about it, ultimately, where often her books seem to be rather frivolous. Perhaps it's the oppressive setting of the South, where there are few basic freedoms, perhaps it's the fact th ...more
Melissa McShane
Jul 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, own, fantasy
This was one of the first books I read by Diana Wynne Jones, back in the days when I would read and love a book and then lack the good sense to look up other books by the same author. I must have stumbled over three or four of her books this way before "discovering" DWJ; what a surprise to me, later, to pick up one of her books and find it oddly familiar.

Diana Wynne Jones's sixth book is her first fantasy set in a world other than our own, and is also more serious than the previous ones. The Dal
Emma Cathryne
A nice but not all-together unique entry in the DWJ canon. I've been slowly working my way through her less well-known books and was inspired by the fact that this is the first in a series. One of my favorite aspect of Jones' writing, as I've said repeatedly, is her ability to candidly asses what are often very real and heavy subjects through the lens of childhood. Moril doesn't stand out particularly amid her host of vague and dreamy young protagonists, but once again the way he deals with topi ...more
Jun 27, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, ya
I love Ms. Jones with all of my heart, and that is why it pains me to admit that I didn't really enjoy these stories. There was no connection between the stories (although the first two novels are set during the same period, they concern two completely different cultures and geographic areas--the difference between A Horse and His Boy and Prince Caspian for instance), so there's really no point at having them all part of the same "quartet." Moreover, the stories just didn't grab me. I don't know ...more
Apr 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Decided to start a reread of the series - Cart and Cwidder is a weird one for me because it's the first book in the series, and it's the beginning of so many characters (and not just Moril and Kialan. Like, I forgot the number of people who show up in this who become important later, like Keril, obviously everything with Hadd and Henda for the next book, and Hestefan). But it's also one of the very few DWJ books where the world-building outweighs the plot. The world-building itself feels effortl ...more
Kate Forsyth
Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favourite writers from my childhood and Cart & Cwidder is one of my favourite of her books, and so it was the one I chose to re-read for DWJ-month in the blogosphere – a global celebration of her books and writing. This is the story of a family of musical travellers in a world divided between North and South, and has DWJ’s trademark mix of the ordinary and the magical. A truly delightful children’s fantasy.
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been trying to read this quartet since I was gifted the books over a decade ago. I still don't know why I never managed - especially after finally picking up this first book yesterday and realising that it is fantastic and not at all difficult.

It's strangely sombre for a children's book, the world is a harsh place and the journey that the main characters go on is challenging in a way that quests rarely seem to be these days. The consequences are as harsh as the world they belong to, and dea
Margaret Carpenter
After hearing about the genius of Diana Wynne Jones more times than I can count, I have finally joined the ranks of her admirers. Jones truly knows her craft. I found many similarities between her writing and the writing of Megan Whalen Turner. Namely, amazing plot twists, nuanced characters, and a finished project worth reading over and over. I'm glad this is a series of four, because I am far from being done with her incredible universe.

Update 1/16:

Still good. Still good.
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this was comforting in a way that a lot of 90s/early 2000s mg books are. i love that it felt very small scale and intimate despite the larger scale issues that came into play, and how human the characters were (a favorite moment was when the older kids fa tried to stay up late to keep watch and then promptly fell asleep the next day and the younger kids just kind of rolled their eyes) and the different skills they brought to the table, and the way it felt so traditional and simple while having a ...more
Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I wasn't sure I liked this all tha tmuch, right up until the last third. I think it's fairly obvious this is an early book of DWJ's. The first two thirds is really all set-up. First she sets up this travelling family who act as a performance troupe, and the general politics of Dalemark (North v. South), then tragedy befalls said family, and the three children (and the person they were taking north) have to fend for themselves. (view spoiler) ...more
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Review can also be found on

This is a really interesting plot with great characters and written well too WHICH IS WHY I’M SO DISAPPOINTED!!

This is nowhere near long enough. I feel as if the Author couldn’t be bothered to delve further and fill out all the brilliant plot points. Everything’s covered, but in a very shallow way.

The plot headed in a great direction and I was enjoying it despite the pace. I found some things happening were too blunt, but, considering Diana Wynne
Harold Ogle
Aug 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, magic, bard
Another fun book with a completely different take on magic from Diana Wynne Jones, Cart and Cwidder tells about a family of singers who use their unique status as entertainers to cross back and forth between two nations/regions which are in a cold war and otherwise have no traffic with each other. Like many of Jones' stories, this is also a coming-of-age story, in that the main protagonist, Moril, is eleven years old, and he comes to realize both his passion and his identity over the course of t ...more
Aug 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Man, was this ever dark and tense. I really liked it, though, and expect to enjoy the rest of the series! I enjoyed reading a DWJ novel with a slightly different worldbuilding style than her usual - vaguely like the Ingary books, but not quite.

I liked how the storytelling and musical aesthetic was very Celtic, specifically Welsh (the "branches" of the Adon's tale was a fun allusion to the branches of the Mabinogi.)
Maricar Dizon
Cart and Cwidder is a magical read. Diana Wynne Jones brought me in another world again. I enjoyed every minute of reading this. One of the things I love the most about DWJ's stories is that her characters always have an interesting back story. At first the characters will seemed to be ordinary but then it will be revealed eventually that there are more to them than meets the eye. In Cart and Cwidder, the revelations about the characters were impressive.

Another thing I enjoyed is the beautiful
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
It's been a while since I've last read any DWJ, and I'd forgotten how her writing style feels to read. This is written in a really straightforward, unassuming way — so unassuming that when the story deepens and builds upon itself, it happens almost without you noticing. An "easy" read (probably classified as middle-grade, in terms of marketing?). Interested in where the story goes from here.

-Parents are confusing mysteries. Lenina???
-The whole thing about... the same patterns repeating themselve
Robin Stevens
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first in my very favourite fantasy series. (8+)

*Please note: this review is meant as a recommendation only. If you use it in any marketing material, online or anywhere on a published book without asking permission from me first, I will ask you to remove that use immediately. Thank you!*
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good. I like the Derkholm novels better.
I like this book much more as an adult. Lot of lovely characterization packed in around an extremely fast-moving plot.
Just read and enjoyed this for the first time! Here is a link to my review:
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
DWJ is one of my favourite authors. Surprisingly, this is the first book of hers I've seen available on audiobook. While it was good, it wasn't great. (Guess she was saving her greatness for the Chrestomanci series.)

**Interesting tidbit for you**

On the audiobook the narrator says Diane Wynne Jones!
Aug 26, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series
I remembered loving Cart and Cwidder when I was a kid and basically new to Diana Wynne Jones. So was afraid it wouldn't really stand up to adult levels of scrutiny... or worse, I'd become one of those adults she talks about who need everything explained twice!

I still don't know which better explains my lukewarm reaction on my reread. I can only state my general complaint is its unformed-ness, perhaps attributable to the fact that the first three books of the Dalemark Quartet were completely earl
Althea Ann
Originally published in 1975. I really wish I had read this short novel as a kid. I still enjoyed reading it now, but I think it would have been one of my favorite books if I had read it at a younger age.
Although a YA novel, with a fun and fast-moving, adventurous tone, this book doesn't shy away from ‘heavier' emotional issues and political situations.
The feudal land of Dalemark is divided, and the South is extremely politically repressive. But people depend on traveling minstrels for not only
Julie Davis
Nov 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Diana Wynne Jones. Lent by my friend who got me turned onto this author ... she warned me that the "feel" of these books is very different from her other books. Which is something interesting to say because I never have read an author who can change tones and feels from book to book so easily.

Just begun, following a family of traveling balladeers who are going from the South to the North in a land split, not exactly by civil war, but definitely by civil aggression between two philosophies of gov
Ryan Mishap
Oct 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A re-post, now that Jones has died (March 26, 2011). Thank you, Diana, for all these wonderful stories.

If you haven't read Diana, starting here would not lead you wrong.

In a series of baronies controlled by tyrannical leaders, a group of traveling musicians drift from town to town doing plays, puppets, and songs. The son of the group, who, like the rest of the family, misses his father, is about to be set on a journey that will challenge the power of the rulers, intersect with the lives of othe
Shawn Thrasher
Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What makes Diana Wynne Jones so great? She doesn't have to spell out every last thing. She plants clue and connections throughout her plots, or often what characters are thinking or saying or feeling, that allows the reader to infer important aspects of the plot, or the setting, or the character's motivations. To be completely blunt, and rather snobbish, she's not a writer for dumb readers. That makes her book that most wonderful and glorious of things, immanently re-readable. Every time you re- ...more
Nov 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens-ya
A family of musicians traveling on the somewhat oppressive and repressed south of Dalemark perform in towns and villages, passing messages and news as they go. An unwelcome passenger creates tensions and problems, and when tragedy strikes, everything seems to fall apart. Wynne Jones expertly crafts an other-world fantasy around family and music and a fight for freedom.
Okay. New favorite author everybody! Or at least one of my favorite authors now.

I never thought I’d actually give this book 5 stars, judging by its cover. I had randomly chosen this book yesterday just because it was by D. W. Jones. And it was worth it.

I’m loving Kialan’s character and am hoping to read more about him in book 2.
Oct 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been quite a while since I read this, but it seems as good a place as any to say that I consistently enjoy Diana Wynne Jones' books. I can't remember one I didn't like. ...more
Gary Butler
Jul 16, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
39th book read in 2013.

Number 282 out of 329 on my all time book list.

Follow the link below to see my video review:
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Diana was born in London, the daughter of Marjorie (née Jackson) and Richard Aneurin Jones, both of whom were teachers. When war was announced, shortly after her fifth birthday, she was evacuated to Wales, and thereafter moved several times, including periods in Coniston Water, in York, and back in London. In 1943 her family finally settled in Thaxted, Essex, where her parents worked running an ed ...more

Other books in the series

The Dalemark Quartet (4 books)
  • Drowned Ammet (The Dalemark Quartet, #2)
  • The Spellcoats (The Dalemark Quartet, #3)
  • The Crown of Dalemark (The Dalemark Quartet, #4)

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