My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I picked this up after seeing Neil Gaiman mention it in a blog post, or some other online posting. It was published originally in 1960, and is, I suppose, a children’s book. It is not a simple book, written to be read quickly and forgotten.
The story centers on Colin and Susan, who are sent to the village of Alderley in rural Cheshire, to stay with Gowther and Bess Mossock while their parents are abroad. The Mossock’s farm is old-fashioned, as is the village and its population. While exploring the surrounding forest, the children are set upon by goblin-like creatures, and are captured. They are rescued by the wizard Cadellin, who takes them to his cavern home where he is guardian to the sleeping knights who will waken to fight the final battle. Cadellin has lost the crystal weirdstone that has the power to wake the knights when needed. Colin and Susan are drawn into the search to recover the weirdstone and discover their part in the story is larger than anyone imagined.
The setting is nicely constructed, and it shows that the author is very familiar with the area. The characters speak in light dialect, except for Gowther, whose accent is written as a native of the area would speak. The use of dialect here is not affected or out of place, if a little hard to follow at times.
Characters are nicely rounded, and even the powerful wizard, Cadellin, has his shortcomings. The two dwarves who accompany the children on their quest through the maze of mines underground are both heroic and amusing at times.
The plot is straightforward, and a reader familiar with fantasy tales will most likely figure out most of it fairly early, but that doesn’t take away from the reading. The language is almost poetic at times, and there is plenty of action and danger.
Fans of Narnia, or of Susan Cooper’s books will enjoy this story. It would be a good book for a parent to read to or with a child, as both young and old will find this an interesting and entertaining story.