Re-reading Alan Garner: The Weirdstone & The Moon of Gomrath

Alan Garner is an extraordinary writer, but in my opinion, his first two books are nowhere near his best work. It seems strikingly unjust that they are by far his most successful (as far as I can tell).

Garner has stated that his nine novels, written over a span of decades, are really all one long book. This reminds me of Aboriginal story-telling, in which one simple layer of the tale is told to children, and deeper layers of myth and meaning are gradually revealed to adults as they grow in wisdom and understanding. Thus Garner's stories become ever more complex, more resonant, more meaningful and in some ways more obscure, culminating in Boneland, which completes the trilogy begun by these two novels in a very adult, subtle and intricate way.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen didn't appeal to me as a kid. The Moon of Gomrath is much better, creepy and sinister and centred around female magic. Cadellin the sorcerer, central to the first book, barely appears in the second one; this guardian figure will re-emerge in Boneland, in the form of a long-ago shaman, and as adult Colin himself.

I've read these two volumes a few times now, and I still find the elves and the dwarfs a bit much. But they helped to introduce several generations of readers to Garner's more sophisticated work, and without them, we might not have the magnificent triumph of Boneland. For that I'm grateful.


  1. I’ve reread them and enjoyed, but the novel they most resemble, Susan Cooper’s Over Sea, Under Stone, is better, and that one led to the Dark Is Rising series without having to become adult fiction.

  2. I agree, Over Sea, Under Stone is better. And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying adult fiction is superior to children's books-- not at all! But Boneland is a better book than the first two in this series.