Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Cart and Cwidder, by Diana Wynne Jones
Wandering players show up a lot in MG fiction, but this one's actually good. Our main character is the youngest son in the family of traveling minstrels, so we see them in much, much more detail than the normal archetype. In fact, the only one who sort of fits that is the father... but the protagonist discovers another side of his before the end of the book.
No, these wandering players aren't a means to take the hero from place to place. Well, actually, they are. (Though their passenger isn't really the hero... but he's still more than he seems.) They're more. We nod at their bringing news from town to town. We feel for the kids trying to keep the show on the road after several chapters have left them by themselves. And then, we see the songs actually come true... to the surprise of the protagonist himself.
Did I mention there's a plot? Did I mention a war and a revolution? At another time, Diana Wynne Jones wrote a very fun Romeo and Juliette; this's her Common Sense (or Les Miserables part II; can anyone give me any famous old stories about revolutions?). And our young protagonist ends up in the thick of it, much to his surprise and chagrin.
There're three more books in this series; I've only started the second. I hope Diana Wynne Jones violated her custom and wrote at least one more about these same protagonists, because I want to hear more about them!
Age rec: MG and up. The mother actively regrets marrying her husband, but it's definitely kept clean and roundly viewed as a bad or at least sad thing.