Tolkien and T H White parallels abound in this huge slice of mythic fiction set in 15th century England.
The Realm is poised for war. Its weak king – Hal, grandson of a usurper – is dominated by his beautiful wife and her lover. Against them stands Duke Richard of Ebor and his allies. The two sides are set on a bloody collision course...
Gwydion is watching over the Realm. He has walked the land since before the time of the druids, since before the Slavers came to subdue the people. Gwydion was here when Arthur rode to war: then they called him 'Merlyn'. But for his young apprentice, Willand, a fearsome lesson in the ways of men and power lies ahead.
The Realm is an England that is still-magical. Legendary beasts still populate its by-ways. It is a land criss-crossed by lines of power upon which standing stones have been set as a secret protection against invasion, but the power of the array was broken by the Slavers who laid straight roads across the land and built walled cities of shattered stone.
A thousand years have passed since then, and those roads and walls have fallen into decay. The dangerous stones are awakening, and their unruly influence is calling men to battle. Unless Gwydion and Will can unearth them, the Realm will be plunged into a disastrous civil war. But there are many enemies ranged against them: men, monsters and a sorcerer who is as powerful as Gwydion himself.
JRR Tolkien spoke of making 'a mythology for England' in his creation of Middle-earth. In this magnificent story, Robert Carter draws upon England's mythic history and approaches the accomplishment of Tolkien's stated aim.
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Robert Carter's debut fantasy The Language of Stones tackles the magic-haunted Matter of Britain, not in King Arthur's dark ages but in an alternative 15th century where the wizard Merlyn struggles to prevent the Wars of the Roses.
Gwydion, as he's now known, walks through lovingly evoked countryside with baleful energies beneath--a network of ley lines and ancient stones. Once benign, these old powers were warped by the invading Slavers (to us, the Romans) who broke the pattern with their inhumanly straight roads of stone. So "battlestones" that used to guard our island now sing a different song, of rage, dissent and war...
This lesson is learned by Gwydion's new apprentice Will, as he follows his enigmatic master through a land whose very spirit can erupt from the ground as the giant Alba, where an erring lord is cursed with a boar's head and water-hags lie in wait for the unwary. At first reluctantly, young Will learns the lore of magic, chivalry, weaponry and medieval hunting (reminiscent of The Sword in the Stone). But why does Gwydion call him Child of Destiny, hinting that he's an incarnation of another promising lad whom the wizard taught nearly a thousand years before?
Seeking out and dealing with battlestones is exhausting work--dangerous, too, because there's powerful opposition. One of the ancient wizardly order has chosen the dark side and for reasons of his own wants war. He's tremendously powerful: there seems no way to block his malign influence over the key confrontation that in our world plunged England into 30 years of war. But this is not our world.
The Language of Stones is full of charm and the magic of landscape. Real places and features, such as the Rollright Stones or the Uffington White Horse, are echoed under other names. There are real people, too: the author recommends checking the cast list of Shakespeare's King Henry VI. All this added texture and depth makes a refreshing change from standard commercial fantasy and contributes to an enjoyable read. --David LangfordReview:
‘Full of charm and the magic of landscape ... an enjoyable read' Amazon
'A compelling tale that fully utilizes its beautifully crafted characters' Dreamwatch
‘Carter’s prose is smooth, and he has a real feel for the countryside. His plot keeps the pages turning’ Starburst
‘Just the right mix of magic, mystery and mud ... Images of terrifying supernatural forces are carefully wrought as Carter weaves his spell’ Lads Mag
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