Yukon Books - Whitehorse, Yukon
Yukonbooks.com > Bookends: Dan Davidson

  Bookends: Dan Davidson

Cart and Cwidder

Reviewed: January 2, 2002
By: Diana Wynne Jones
Publisher: Oxford University Press
186 Pages, $6.95

When Clennan the Singer boasted that he had conjured the love of his wife, Lenina, with the power of his voice and skill with the Cwidder (a lute-like instrument) his children, Moril, Brid and Dagner thought he was just boasting. Later they decided that there might have been some truth to it, perhaps even more than their father had realized. But that was a lot later.

Before they come to that understanding, we spend a bit of time with this family of travelling musicians and learn the trade of the traveller. They were the media of their day, carrying news, entertainment, scandal and personal messages to the hamlets, villages and towns along their winding route. It was a fine life in many ways, and pretty much all that the kids had every known.

It all came to an end on that strange a terrible day that their father was killed before their very eyes and their mother, his uncomplaining companion of many years, suddenly reversed course and went home to her noble family - just as if a spell had suddenly ended.

The kids can't take it. Their relatively free spirits can stand to be cribbed, cabined and confined, and they feel an obligation to the Kialan, the young man who Clennan had promised safe passage to Hannart, a town far along on their route. Aside from that, the woman they had known as their mother seems to have disappeared into a chatelaine they hardly recognize, as if she's had a personality transplant.

They take the cart and their instruments, including their father's ancient cwidder, and hit the trail again in the dead of the night. and if they thought recent events up to that point had been strange and terrible, they were soon to realize that they hadn't seen anything yet.

Imagine finding out that your father has been living a secret live under your nose, doing things of which you had no conception, thumbing his nose at the authorities in plain sight without anyone being the wiser. Clennan had managed it for years, travelling the roads between the North and South kingdoms of Dalemark, using the cover of his apparent occupation to mask what he was really doing. He was a spy, THE spy, the living legend called the Porter. Suddenly his children found themselves the heirs to his last mission, obligated to carry on the work to make the show their own and make their way in life.

Moril, as it turns out, has the hardest task, for it is his lit to succeed where his father only dimly understood what he was doing. The cwidder, it emerges, is a true instrument of power, and Moril can use it in a deliberate way that Clennan never mastered. It's all connected to his ability, which his brother and sister have always found annoying, to slip in and out of focussed daydreams.

So what we have here is a novel that's one part coming of age, one part political intrigue, one part family saga and one part fantasy. The tale begins with Lenina's scolding, "Do come out of that dream, Moril." Take it, instead, as an invitation to join the boy.

Cart and Cwidder is the first volume in The Dalemark Quartet, originally published between 1975 and 1993 and now issued in this uniform edition. While these are good enough to have reappeared on their own, I expect we have the resurgence of interest in fantasy known as the Harry Potter Effect to thank for their publication at this time.

Print Preview


[Special Order Desk]
Great Deals
New Arrivals
Special Offers
Recover password
Contact us
Privacy statement
Terms & Conditions
Shipping Information
Special Orders Desk

Copyright © 2007 Yukonbooks.com