Format: Paperback
Published by: Definitions
Pages: 314
ISBN: 9780099438496
Price: 735 INR

“Darkhenge is the finest young adult novel I have read for quite a while: thrilling and subtle, intensely lyrical and psychologically profound.”

For quite a many weeks after buying ‘Darkhenge‘ by Catherine Fisher, it offered me no respite in its slow reading. For the beginning and the chapters that followed were almost as obscure as French to me, given that I was having extreme difficulty studying the language in high school. As time went by and my vocabulary and patience to read something grew, I gave it a second chance and was pleasantly surprised to find that I’d struck gold! I was drawn into a magical world of rivalry, irritation and boatloads of imagination.

DarkhengeThe novel is full of legends, myths and stories that encircle the real one. Be it the introductory paragraph that reminds one of the story of Persephone and Hades (the one with the pomegranate) or the poems (including ‘The Battle of the Trees’) that appear before every chapter once in a while, ‘Darkhenge’ contains quite the mystical side to it. Tim Edmunds has beautifully illustrated the cover for this novel. The setting is that of a dead midnight with an eagle flying over the digging site, majestic as ever and shining under the moon’s eye.

This is a book that is both absorbing and hazy to describe. The ease with which Fisher has managed to mesh the real world with the imaginary, mythical one is nothing short of extraordinary!

Fisher has beautifully portrayed the rivalry between brothers and sisters, older and younger, first and second. As she herself says, she has explored these rivalries and found to be

“big enough in real life, but magnified weirdly in a place where nothing is straightforward and everyone wears masks.”

Rob’s younger sister Chloe has been in a coma since the past three months after a riding accident and the family’s life is in a disarray. To distract himself from the monotonous schedule they have all fallen into, he takes up a job working (read: sketching) at a secret archaeological site, where workers have uncovered a mystical ring of black timbers. At its centre is an ancient tree buried upside down in the earth. Soon enough, he finds out that the tree has the power to transport him to Unworld in the Kingdom on Annwn- where Chloe lives trapped between life and death. Fisher writes how strongly Chloe feels about having to live life overshadowed by her popular bothers existence. In Annwn, she soon begins to realize she has the power to control the circumstances, if at least in this world, and slowly begins to get intoxicated by the same. The stronger her powers become, the greater the danger of her trapping herself in the Unworld.

Fisher has spent a great deal of time in Avebury and its surroundings, with regard to her familiarity with the people, tourists, and the illegal camping sites where the Pagans stay. She is able to recreate the entire village to a state of perfection within the chapters. Seeming to display itself as a darker fairy tale, at the end of the day, we have to realize that the author has magnified the relationship between a bother and a sister quite a lot. A loving big brother who ignores and occasionally irritates his sister. But then, who doesn’t?

Rating: 6.5/ 10

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