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The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner
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Sep 11, 2008

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Read in July, 2008

The Weirdstone is a magical relic with the ability to protect the Earth against Nastrond, the spirit of evil, when Ragnarok comes—but the stone is missing. When Susan and Colin, two children vacationing near Alderley Edge, discover that they have the stone, they must begin a quest to return it to its protector before their enemies capture them and destroy the stone. Heavy on action and light on characterization with an abrupt conclusion, combining Norse, Irish, Welsh, and English mythology with in a ramshackle muddle, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen is a faced-paced adventure but it leaves much to be desired—for example, something outside of the plot alone. I found it disappointing, and I don't recommend it.

It opens with a local legend and reads like a myth: an action-packed story of good against evil, this novel has the potential to be a treasured, magical fairy tale. Unfortunately, Garner stumbles over his mythological inspiration and never manages to instill meaning in his plot. Beginning with a local English legend and taking place in a few mythical English locations, based on the Norse mythological end of the world, featuring a Irish/Scottish goddess, and including a few random references to English, Norse, Irish, and even Welsh mythology, Garner's mythic inspirations come from everywhere—and nowhere, because these aspects contain only a superficial resemblance to their sources. Cobbled together, these asynchronous bits and pieces create a shaky foundation for a novel. It simply makes no sense—why does Garner use so many mythological sources, why does he introduce a Celtic figure when a Norse equivalent already exists, why does he use mythological services at all if he intends only to do them a disservice? Not all readers may find these aspects so frustrating, but those interested in the book because of the mythological inspiration may want to instead avoid it.

Myths aside: Garner writes action, and he writes it well. Chases, battles, and perilous journeys fill the book, and some of them spike the nerves and push the reader to the edge of the his seat (like other reviewers, the mine also had left me shaken). Unfortunately, there is little to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen except this action: characters are only lightly sketched and undergo no development in the course of the book; there are no themes or messages other than a simple war between good and evil. And then the end of the book is so abrupt—a single final chapter for the entire climax—that even the action seems pointless and unresolved. The action beings strongly, and Garner writes it with great skill, but with nothing else going on by some ill-placed mythological references and a little bit of humor, reader interest wains and the book becomes increasingly meaningless.

The magic of myth may intrigue the reader, and the rollicking action may keep him reading, but over the course of the book both aspects falter and fail. A better novel would do justice to its mythological inspirations and include some meaning that is larger than plot alone; The Hounds of the Mórrígan by Pat O'Shea is one such novel, and I highly recommend it. As for The Weirdstone of Brisingamen: Despite the promise of the premise, I found it disappointing. It's not bad, but it offers little. I don't recommend it.
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message 1: by Scott (new)

Scott Roberts I enjoy Garner's books, but I will agree that they end rather abruptly. It's not just this one, it's a running thread. Imagine if Lord Of The Rings ended the moment Gollum splashed into the fires of Mt. Doom. "And the ring was destroyed and that was the end of the adventure." You might wonder what happened to everybody who was involved in the story. That's an Alan Garner book. Good, but no denouement At All.


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