Early post today as I'm going to be busy this evening. And yes, this review will be cross posted to amazon.co.uk and goodreads.
The Moon of Gomrath by Alan Garner is the second of "The Alderley Tales". The first of which I reviewed previously.
"Moon" was first published in 1963 and is still in print today. That alone would be testament to its strength - before print on demand came along books generally went out of print pretty quickly due to the cost of print runs.
However "Moon" is not quite as strong a book as it's predecessor - but given the strength of "Weirdstone" that would be a struggle. Taken on it's own merits, however, it is a very strong book.
Colin and Susan - the protagonists from "Weirdstone" - are drawn back into the otherworld and the ancient struggle between good and evil when they accidentally rouse the Old Magic, and thus the Wild Hunt, from its slumber. As enemies and allies from the previous book return and new ones appear only the children's courage will enable them to survive the ordeal - and if they don't it's likely the world won't either.
There is a depth to Garner's characters that is breathtaking. While the Wizard Cadellin is undeniably good and the Morrigan evil every other character exists somewhere inbetween. Some of the 'good' characters really get my back up - and this is quite intentional.
For example his his elves are prats. They aren't evil, they're creatures of light who fight on the side of good. But they are also arrogant, uncaring and lack empthy for humans. When you learn that they have been forced to flee to the edges of Britain because smoke pollution makes them ill you get the point but you can't help feeling it's not that much loss.
I'm conscious in this review that I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but the ending is a bittersweet thing like the best dark chocolate. There is death and life, sorrow and joy all wrapped up in one package and it works. It works very well.
Where it's weaker than "Weirdstone" is that it all feels more contrived. Some of the dangers and solutions that face Colin and Susan - especially early on - are the result of unfortunately combining events. For example the Elves ask for something Susan has at the same time as something else happens, and Susan ends up in danger from event two only because she's given the thing in question to the Elves. In "Weirdstone" the coincidences felt like the hand of fate guiding things - in "Moon" it's less so - though by the end you wonder, because it does all wrap up well. It's cetainly not a deal breaker.
On Amazon I gave "Weirdstone" Five Stars. I give "Moon" Four and a Half - listed as four even though I don't usually round down, because I want to make sure it's clear I feel it's slightly weaker.