I found this book because, in memoriam sort of, I am now reading more Diana Wynne Jones than I used to. And this looked to be a likely thing.
Book in a nutshell:
Moril's family are travelling entertainers - players and bards. We learn practically on the first page that the country they live in is divided into two rather sharp-edged sections: North and South. The North is a hazy dream beyond the mountains, the South an unpleasant reality where speech and song are censored and the lords of the land can basically do whatever they want.
But while Moril and his family are traveling up and down the South, they pick up a passenger: an annoying, mysterious boy named Kialan. His arrival begins a startling chain of events. After death, desertion, and the authorities are done with them, the traveling cart family has shrunk to only three members. And they know that their only hope is to get North.
This is a simple, straightforward book, a quiet and heartfelt story of family and friends and freedom, twined about with a love for song and words. I never guessed any of the surprises, though, for all its outward simplicity. Each of the people is carefully and almost invisibly characterized - even the musical instruments seem to take part in the story.
Honestly, there's not much I can say about it. All the wonder's in the book itself - it doesn't sound like much to say I love sweet, shy Dagner the composer, or feel sorry for Kialan's rather clumsy attempts to make himself friendly, or thrill at Moril's song at the climax. But it's a book that I can recommend to nearly anyone.
The only thing I could ask for improvement in is the songs - some of them might be a little more, oh, songlike? But that's a picky detail. And besides - I like reading about travelling players. They're a favorite of mine.
Especially when they're also revolutionaries.
Age rec: Anybody. Though it's rather sad at parts, I can't think of a single reason it should be kept away from anyone old enough to hear a good story. Diana Wynne Jones was pretty dependable on for that, with sole exception of the slightly disturbing elements in Hexwood (but that's another story and another post).
Who'd be interested in a Diana Wynne Jones blogweek?