In 2014, I read and reviewed the first of Garner’s Alderly stories. You can find that review here: “The Weirdstone of Brisingamen“.
“The Moon of Gomrath” brings us back to Alderly and Susan and Colin, who are still with Bess and Gowther Mossock at their farm. Whenever they can, Susan and Colin return to the hidden areas of the wood surrounding Alderly, looking for Cadellin, the wizard they encountered in the first book. But Cadellin seems to have forgotten the children, or at least doesn’t want to contact them again. Until Susan is touched by the Brochallan, an entity of the Old Magic in the guise of a Celtic water horse. They encounter a dwarf and a ranger-like human who take them to Cadellin. Although Cadellin doesn’t tell them much, he has feared this happening, since he senses that Susan is drawn to the Old Magic through the bracelet she was give by the lady of the lake. The Magic compulsion causes Susan to insist on lighting a fire on a sacred hill on the eve of the Moon of Gomrath, and the Wild Hunt is awakened with their bloodlust in force. When Colin is captured by their old enemy, the Morrigan, it is left to Susan to harness the Old Magic in order to save her brother and herself.
Although on the surface a children’s book because of the age of the protagonists, “Moon of Gomrath”, like it’s predecessor, is not an easily read book. The style is very formal, bordering on stilted and somewhat reminiscent of Tolkien. There is a lot going on, and many characters have similar names and are easily confused. The plot moves forward at a good pace, with few gaps or misses. The biggest problem to me was Cadellin’s rather abrupt decision not to help in the battle to save Colin. Instead, he stays with his charges, the army that he alone can awaken at the final battle. Given his almost constant aid in the first story, this was a convenient way to put the powerful mage to the side so that Susan could find her own strengths.
Still, it is a good story, with a lot of detail about the setting, a real world location and where the author grew up. He draws heavily from Celtic mythology, with a bit of Norse and British folklore also. The different folk stories are woven together well, and work as a complete tale. The strong dialect that the Mossock’s use can be a bit difficult to parse at times, but becomes familiar quickly.
This is another book that fans of Susan Cooper, the Narnia Chronicles, and even Tolkien will probably enjoy, although these don’t have the same scope. Parents and children could easily read this together, and it could make a good introduction to high fantasy for grade school ages.
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