The Moon of Gomrath by Alan Garner

This is a very strange book.
The Moon of Gomrath book cover

When Colin and Susan unwittingly rouse the Old Magic from its slumber, the uncontrollable ferocity of the Wild Hunt is unleashed upon the world once more. Soon they are inextricably caught up in the struggle between the wizard, Cadellin Silverbrow – and the evil Morrigan.

But the children too are in great danger. They will need all of their strength and courage, just to survive...

First published in 1963, The Moon of Gomrath was the eagerly awaited sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Cheshire based author, Alan Garner.

‘In this saga of wild magic, Alan Garner achieves really powerful effects of beauty and terror that hold a reader well beyond the close.’ Listener.

‘The Moon of Gomrath is not only powerful but full of wild, whirling adventure...the reader is drawn right into the midst of it all’. Guardian

I first read the Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner thirty years ago and immediately begged my parents to buy me the sequel – The Moon of Gomrath because the first book was so good.

The Moon of Gomrath is set in Alderley, Cheshire, the same as the first book and maps are provided showing the points of interest that can still be visited today. This grounding in reality is a huge strength for Garner, he describes the area so vividly that it is easy for the reader to enter the story and move around with the characters.

Colin and Susan are once again the stars of the book, but at the start they are quite frustrated. Having been part of the defeat of Grimnir and the Morrigan in the first book, they have been cut off from the world of magic. However this state of affairs does not last long.

The Elves have come upon hard times and are gathering their strength in Fundindelve, but an ancient evil, The Brollachan has been accidentally released and rumours abound of the return of the Morrigan. When walking through the woods the children glimpse a dark shadow moving inside the old quarry and as they hurry away, they are accosted by Atlendor, King of the Elves and then meet the dwarf Uthecar Hornskin and Albanac, the last of the Children of Danu.

The Old Magic is awakening in Alderley Edge and the children are soon at the centre of the maelstrom.

Many of the components within the story will feel familiar to fans of The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. Garner once again mixes a potent blend of real world practicality with Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Norse legends. Unfortunately, this excellence is also the story’s downfall. There is simply too much crammed into two hundred pages. We have migrating elves, ancient evil, Old Magic, High Magic, the Great Hunt, the return of the Morrigan, some new baddies including bodach and palugs (both from Celtic legends) as well as returning characters from the Weirdstone of Brisingamen all vying for their story to be told.

Quite simply, there is too much happening in the story and no clear plot – the story just rushes along and the reader is left unsure as to where it is going, or if it actually gets there in the end.

The Weirdstone was successful because of the brilliant way that Alan Garner blended the human world with the myths and legends.

Unfortunately in this book he went slightly berserk and we have myths and legendary references coming out of our ears, far more than the story warranted. It also becomes detail heavy, for example, when the horsemen of the great hunt are summoned it takes five pages to get them all out of their barrows:

‘Wakeful are the sons of Argatron! Wakeful Ulmrig, Ulmor, Ulmbeg! Ride Einheriar of the Herlathing.’

‘Wakeful the son of Dunarth, north-king, mound-king! Wakeful is Fiorn in his hill! Ride Einheriar of the Herlathing.’

‘Wakeful is Fallowman, son of Melimbor! Wakeful is Bagda son of Toll! Ride Einheriar of the Herlathing.’

Wakeful are the sons of Ormar! Wakeful Maedoc, Midhir, Mathramil! Ride Einheriar of the Herlathing.’

The summoning of each rider is accompanied by a long description of each one, including armour, weapons and horses. There is also a description of the ride between each barrow, before the next rider is summoned, which became slightly tedious after the first couple of times.

The story roars along at a good pace, but unfortunately the main plot and many sub-plots are left unresolved. It is a common frustration on message boards that there was not a third book in the ‘Alderley’ series, but unfortunately after forty seven years of waiting, it does not seem likely to be forthcoming, which is a real shame.

The final negative comment, from a purely personal point of view, is that one of the main characters in the first book is completely omitted from the sequel for no apparent reason. I clearly remember my disappointment as a child about this – I didn’t understand why he wasn’t included and it spoilt the story that one of my favourites was gone with no explanation offered.

In conclusion, this is a very strange book. There are an incredible number of really good things in it, but there is too much unnecessary detail for very young children and a conclusion that will not satisfy most adult readers. Therefore it falls into a category where it does not really satisfy any target audience, which is a shame because I love Alan Garner’s work.

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The Moon of Gomrath reader reviews

from Australia


I adored this book when I was a child. I still adore it. However I respect the criticisms of there being simply too much going on too quickly and too many players from Gaelic, Nordic and Anglo-Saxon myth jangling and clamoring for attention without adequate resolution or consistency. Who are the dwarves for instance and do they have a homeland and live invisibly like the Elves of Sinadon seem to? Or do they just eke a living out like gypsies? And who is mortal and who is immortal? And who the heck are the Children of Danu anyway, and how come Albanac seems to be the last one? And is Colin's bit of faith healing with the Mothan, connection with the Hunter and his adoption by Albanac's horse going to set him on some incredible future path? And is Susan really destined to become a powerful white witch with connection to the Moon and to the Pleiades! For me, the power of Moon of Gomrath was actually the LACK of answers to these questions. Because, there was so much that remained unanswered, this book has stayed with me all my life and I have craved to have a final instalent in the trilogy in order to tie things off. But as it never came... at least in the form I imagined, the Moon of Gomrath remains a deeply melancholic and powerful story. Boneland is a different matter and whilst I am glad Garner wrote it, I still have a completely different sequel in my head with roaring pines and glinting gold buckles and flickering blue lights and white eaglefeather cloaks and wrist bracelets which provide words of power to their wearer in their moments of need.

8.2/10 from 2 reviews

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