‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ by Alan Garner
“The Weirdstone of Brisingamen,” by Alan Garner, is the perfect introduction to fantasy for a young reader. It’s chock-full of magic, dastardly villains, and nods to Celtic and Nordic folklore that’s bound to captivate any reader. Garner, who wrote the novel in his late twenties, used his childhood home of Cheshire and its surrounding folktales as inspiration for his literary debut. With this in mind, ”Weirdstone” feels more grounded in reality than a story that would be considered more high fantasy. Garner’s first novel has a cozy, familiar quality to it, and evoked similar feelings to the first time I read ”Harry Potter” or ”The Hobbit.”
The story follows the adventures of Susan and Colin, two children who are staying with family friends in the English countryside. As it often happens, they explore the environs of their summer home and stumble upon a hidden, mystical cave and the great wizard, Cadellin Silverbrow. The children soon become embroiled in an age-old battle of good versus evil, one featuring goblins, a shapeshifter, and a mysterious missing gemstone.
Older readers may find the main characters, Susan and Colin, to be a bit flat in their characterization. At times they’re just cardboard cutouts with simple dialogue, but I think this may make it easier for a younger audience to imagine themselves in the characters’ shoes. Despite this, the story itself is interesting, and features a few scenes with genuinely scary stakes. This is a great read to introduce children to fantasy novels, or for adults looking for a quick, cozy read.
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