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Boneland
By Alan Garner
Harper-Collins, $7.99, 149pp
Published: August 2012

Boneland by Alan Garner, with the sub-line: If the Sleeper wakes, the Dream dies, is called “The concluding volume in the Weirdstone Trilogy,” however, it is nothing like the first two.  The Weirdstone of  Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath are children’s fantasies: less humorous than The Midnight Folk,  a little more demanding than the Narnia stories, and considerably more challenging than The Dark is Rising, which seems to be a variation of the two books the way The Sword of Shanarra is practically a copyright violation of The Lord of the Rings.  Brother and sister Colin and Susan have magical adventures, encountering secretive, sometimes deadly personages from myth and legend. The two books are enthralling, especially if you like fantasy strongly rooted in tradition and geography. First published in the 1960s, the series was never brought to completion. The second doesn’t end on the edge of a cliff, but the storyline is clearly unresolved. Over the decades, most readers became resigned to not knowing what happened next, but there were the persistent ones who badgered the author for “at least one more.”

And here it is. But before you get all happy, be apprised: Boneland takes place more or less in our present day – as its predecessors were set in theirs – which means Colin is no longer of an age to be the protagonist of a young-adult adventure. As for Susan, well… what she wanted to happen has already happened, off stage, as it were. Boneland is Colin’s story, his after-the-magic aftermath. The magic sneaks back into his life, but in a form he does not even recognize.  The story I wanted only gets told in a few lines near the end.  And yet, this makes sense: Alan Garner is no longer a young man, spinning tales for the children in his life; he is a world-renowned author of many novels, and he has put aside childish things.  He wrote the story he wanted to write, in the manner he wished to tell it, presenting a dazzling array of information to the audience he wished to reach.  One’s inner child may be keenly disappointed, but one’s mature self can be respectfully honored by the compliment.

My question for the author is, was the choice of  ‘Susan’ a deliberate redemption of a name C.S. Lewis used for an unsympathetic character? I’ve always hoped so. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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