[Young Adult] Review – DARKHENGE

7 07 2006

Title: Darkhenge

by Catherine Fisher

Publisher & Imprint: Harper Collins/Greenwillow Books

Pub Date: March 2006

Price: 15.99

ISBN: 0-06-078582-9

Primary audience: ages 12 and up, lovers of mythology, art, and subtle magic

Notable aspects: language, sensitivity, shifting points of view, plot, interesting setting

Review: “The tree branched like a brain.” I was hooked from the very first sentence by this “imported” author. DARKHENGE originally appeared in Great Britain in 2005, but this book is accessible to well-read American readers.

It seems to start out as a tale about Rob, a student in his late teens with an artistic streak, who carries the burden of a family tragedy. We are led through a day which seemingly blends the ordinary with the magical….. his bike goes off the path in precisely the place that his younger sister had her horseriding accident. As Rob picks himself up, a horse passes him on the path, its rider seemingly his sister Chloe. That, however, is patently impossible, since his sister is lying in a hospital in a coma several miles away….

The story itself branches outward like the limbs of a tree. An archaeological dig led by a professor with an agenda, a man who literally appears from underground, Rob’s parents in their separate grief and avoidance of same, Rob’s godfather [a priest with some highly nontraditional views], and Chloe herself…. all have their tales to tell in this novel which leans equally heavily on Welsh mythology and the Celtic tree calendar, but which has at its heart the issue of self-perception and communication.

The language in this book is glorious. When we are seeing things through Rob’s eyes, we are given solid descriptions which involve the richness of colors, invoking his gift and training as an artist. When it shifts to Chloe’s point of view, words seem to matter more, since she aspires to be a writer, but they are slippery and not easily grasped, since she is younger and more tempestuous.

There is a happy ending, but it does not come frivolously or without cost.

Reviewer’s name & bookstore: Patty Cryan, Mike’s Comics, Worcester, Massachusetts

Rating: 9

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