Some of you may remember that I have, ambitiously, decided to attempt a reading challenge this year. One of the items on the list is “a book from your childhood”.
I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of The Dalemark Quartet by Diana Wynne Jones.
Shout out to Thriftbooks.com for enabling me.I picked up two other books for the reading challenge so I could get free shipping. They know how to twist a bookworm’s arm.
My copy is even one of the copies with all four books in one. The actual name for a book like that is escaping me now. Probably because bedtime is coming up for me.
Either way, this has been one of my absolute favorite series/worlds since I was a kid. (Maybe it doesn’t quite outweigh Harry Potter or Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series, but it’s up there.) One of the things that has always stuck with me is how music is used as a magical force. The world is just as rich as when I was a kid–and perhaps even more so now. In rereading it, I’m noticing a lot of things I don’t think I picked up as a child.
I’m still struggling with figuring out how to pronounce some of the character names, though. Osfameron isn’t terrible, but Manaliabrid is a bit of a mouthful.
The series is set in a medieval-like world, with the North and the South of the continent split by a mountain range. The North and the South have been warring for centuries because, while they used to be one country, the last King died without an heir. The earls of the kingdom essentially splintered the land into their own kingdoms–their earldoms. The North is very free; however, the South is tyrannical and citizens are afraid of being arrested.
The story opens with a traveling troupe of singers. The father, Clannen, is the leader, lead singer, lead performer, and a very boisterous personality. His wife, Lenina, is a quiet, impassive person (much like ice to Clannen’s fire) that plays the hand organ for them. From there, their children Dagnar, Brid, and Moril perform and play and learn music from their father.
As they pass through towns, they sing, they play, they act as the post office and disperse letters from their travels, and they communicate the news. Moril, a young boy of 11 who’s always stuck in his daydreams, is the main narrator for the story. Through him, we learn about the Porter, the spy who works for the North in trying to free the citizens of the South from the earls’ tyranny. Along the way, the troupe picks up a passenger, a young boy around 13. As he travels with them, he always tries to avoid crowds and towns and people on the roads.
Not too long after they pick him up, the troupe travels through Lenina’s hometown. It is revealed she was actually a noblewoman that Clannen charmed into leaving and marrying him. As they skirt the territory, they overnight at a lake. By lunch the next morning, Clannen is dead and the troupe heads to Lenina’s family.
I won’t say more because I’ll start giving the plot away. Needless to say, I’m really enjoying this series again. (And even though just reading the first book is enough for the challenge, I’m going to read all four, because why not?)