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Why I love... The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, by Alan Garner

Is it too late to revise New Year resolutions? Mine was to be regular with this blog, but because writing is fairly immersive, it's hard to pull my head out of whatever I'm working on to talk about something pertinent and relevant.

So, time for a change of approach. I'll still do the blog pieces on topical things in my world when I've got something burning in me, but in the meantime, I'm going to start doing weekly (lofty ambition!) appreciation pieces on the books, music or other pieces of creativity that I've loved, admired or been inspired or moved by at some stage in life. I reckon I can keep that up!

So first up: a very wonderful book that I fell in love with as an 11/12 year old, that I still regard as my favourite children's/teen book ever.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, by English writer Alan Garner, was his debut, written in 1957. It was set in the English countryside, but invoked Arthurian and Celtic myth, as well as Norse mythology, in the complex tale of two children drawn into the secret war of light and dark, trying to prevent a magic artefact from falling into the wrong hands. From gentle, sinister beginnings, the plot picks up pace, becoming darker and more dramatic until it breaks out into open conflict.

I remember devouring it over and again, usually late at night and often with a torch under the blankets, as I had a curfew on school nights. The scenes involving crawling through the old goblin mines used to absolutely creep me out - there's a scene where our heroes must crawl into a flooded elbow of a tunnel, holding their breath not knowing if there was air on the other side of the dip. I don't think I breathed either.

What I adored about the book was the way it took the ordinary and known, and wove hidden magic around it. I was at that stage in life where high school was just around the corner, and parents and teachers were talking about what we might want to grow up and be. The 'everything is possible' time that is childhood was giving way to the 'knuckling down and dealing with reality' of teenage years. Here was a book that said that magic could still be found, if you turned the unexpected corner, or opened the hidden door. It said that life could still be magical.

That blending of the everyday and the magical was certainly present in my first book, The Bone Tiki. Different country, different mythology, different plot: but there is a thread of commonality. I think Brisingamen will always be my favourite children's/teen novel, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who loves children's fantasy.


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