Friday, 10 August 2007

Review: The Moon of Gomrath by Alan Garner

This is the sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, reviewed on 16 July. It carries on directly from the earlier story, concerning two children in Cheshire and their inadvertent adventures in a magical underworld with wizards, elves, gnomes and other more ominous beings.

It is very much a direct sequel – Garner assumes that readers would have read the earlier book, as the story plunges straight into the action without any of the introductory scene-setting which occurred in Weirdstone. It might be therefore regarded as a 'part 2' of that story. The pace is rather frantic, with one crisis following rapidly after the last, and as well as the familiar characters from Weirdstone, quite a few new ones are added. As he explains in an end note, he has researched the obscurer aspects of Celtic mythology and populated the book with creatures from there. The problem is that new creatures keep appearing in the book with little in the way of introduction or explanation.

On the whole, I felt that Gomrath lacks the charm which made Weirdstone such a success. It has a rushed feel to it, with little build-up of the characters or the plot. Those who loved Weirdstone will enjoy the book, but I found it a dispensable addendum to the earlier work.

3 comments:

GeraniumCat said...

Just come across your review via LibraryThing.

I read The Moon of Gomrath as a child around the time it was first published, and didn't have any problem with the introduction of new characters/creatures. In fact, I loved it and it was probably directly responsible for a lifelong interest in the mythology of Britain.

My feeling, bearing in mind that I haven't read it for some years, is that far from seeming rushed, it has a narrative drive appropriate to the "quest" nature of the story. The very real sense of threat engendered by the Brollachan is something I remember vividly, while the sheer wildness of Herne and the Hunt offered what seemed a very tangible, even visceral, connection to a "real" Celtic past, as opposed to the largely imagined worlds of much modern fantasy writing.

The darkness of Garner's writing was something pretty unusual in children's books of the time (perhaps Madeleine L'Engle was the other to wield it quite so effectively). Maybe there is so much stunning writing for that age group around these days, to render The Moon of Gomrath dispensable, but I'd be sorry if readers (especially young ones) were to be put off by your review.

Having carped, I can see much to browse through on your blog and will be checking out your reviews for books I'm thinking of reading.

Anthony G Williams said...

Thanks for your comments.

Opinions about stories will always differ, and indeed will sometimes change with age. My criticisms of 'Gomrath' were really in the context of 'Brisingamen', which I think is a great story, and a hard act to follow. I think that anyone who enjoyed 'Brisingamen' should read 'Gomrath' and decide for themselves.

steve said...

I must agree with GeraniumCat that you have Moon of Gomrath wrong. I read it as a child,when it was published. The characters were to me well drawn and the locations spectacularly well described. I lived not far from Errwood Hall at the time and in those days children were allowed to wander around the countryside with little adult supervision so I was familiar with the area by day and also late into the night. Like the children I had been out on the moors by night and had lit fires of fallen branches to stay warm.

The mythological characters were also familiar from local legend so no sense of them being introduced in too great a number or too rapidly. Garner painted an accurate picture paced just right for a child to read and he caught the character of the area perfectly.