This exciting tale of magic and myth fits neatly between the most excellent Hobbit, and the Harry Potter series. It is set in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, which is a shire in the Midlands of Britain. Colin and Susan move to their relations who own a farm and have their roots deep in the soil of the land. The tale of the knights who lie in a magical sleep underground; never aging, guarded by ancient magic and a lonely wizard, is well known to the locals. They will awake from Fundindelve in the foretold hour of Britain's need, when Nastrond will return in power to destroy or enslave all free peoples, and Ragnarok will swallow all the good and true. But, by a slip that may yet prove fatal, the jewel Firefrost is lost. It is the key and heart to the deep spells protecting the sleepers. If it falls into the hands of the enemy they will unmake it.
Alan Garner is the best imitator of Tolkien that I know of who, while being clearly inspired by him, manages to create his own heroes and villains. We breath the air of a bygone age, but the witches drive cars and use the telephone. The dwarves, elves, shape-shifters and svarts must hide themselves or blend into modern society as best they can. The dark side are there, and not always easy to spot. In this respect J.K. Rowling has exactly followed Garner. But Garner writes in good prose, and uses the myths with skill. His characters are real, and we do care about what happens to them. The dialogue, uses some dialect, and is very realistic. Plastic bags exist in this world, and they are vital in the escape from the mines (which really do go back to the Bronze Age of Britain). However, the word 'plastic' is kept out of the dwarf who speaks to Colin, as it would jar and be out of context in the underworld of the dwarves and svarts. As I discovered Garner as a youngster before I read Tolkien I have a lot to thank him for, and I can but recommend this and the sequel (The Moon of Gomrath) to you.
This report prepared by Michael JR Jose