THE SPELLCOATS by Diana Wynne Jones


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This takes place in prehistoric Dalemark, whose later history Jones dealt with in Cart and Cwidder (1977) and Drowned Ammet (1978); but there is no evident connection except that the characters of The Spellcoats have become legendary figures in the other novels. The story, all 250 pages, is purportedly being woven, as it happens, into the coats created by young narrator Tanaqui--at first, it seems, she weaves only to record her family's adventures, but later for the inherent magic power of the woven symbols. Orphaned by a war against blond, invading Heathens, Tanaqui and her siblings (who look like the Heathens) are expelled from their village and embark on a long journey down river to an encounter with an evil enchanter out to capture their souls. The children carry with them three ancestral figures called the Undying. (For a while they also carry an ailing older brother, magically transformed into a clay figure.) They learn en route that The One, the most revered of the three figures, is the supreme river god and their own grandfather, and that their dead mother is also the river--and like Grandfather, a god and one of the figures (the Lady). (At one point, too, the river is seen to be a stream of souls, all tumbling toward the enchanter's net.) For a while the children travel with their own king, who has designs on the One (and on the oldest sister), but they prefer the young Heathen king; when both kings die in battle Tanaqui's brother succeeds both and unifies the land. There's more magic here and less human interest than in the companion novels; only those with an interest in the murky roots of imaginary realism will be swept along.
Pub Date: Aug. 14th, 1979
ISBN: 0192752804
Page count: 260pp
Publisher: Atheneum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1979


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