Red fox ISBN 9780099438496
..Rob believes he is going to rescue his sister from the King of Annwn, a chivalric quest that comes to an ingnominious halt when she refuses to be rescued. Chloe, it seems, unconsciously summoned the king through her desire to escape from an existence lived in the shadow of her popular and high-achieving brother. In Annwn, finally in control of her circumstances, Chloe begins to realize her power, only to become intoxicated by it. It is easy to sympathize with Chloe’s desire to define herself, and difficult not to groan at Rob’s blundering inability to see beyond his own idea of her. But the stronger her will becomes, the greater the danger that she will trap herself, alone, in the caers of the Unworld and never return to her body outside. For Chloe, indulging the deadly sin of envy will prove more deadly to her than anybody else, a fact underlined by the mutually destructive ongoing indulgence of Ceridwen’s wrath toward Taliesin…
I love to go walking over the downs at Avebury, in Wiltshire. The landscape is littered with prehistoric mysteries- the great henge at Avebury, the dark burial chamber at West Kennet, the lost circles and timber palisades, and the wonderful, intriguing mound Silbury Hill. Not only that, the wide open downland is magic.
So a story with an ancient wooden henge that might be a portal to the Unworld was always going to be set here- in fact I worked out the idea when walking from Avebury to Marlborough one spring day. Rob, a very successful boy, who’s never really had any problems, has a younger, rather overlooked sister called Chloe. She falls from her horse and is in a deep coma. No one knows if she will wake or not. Rob meets Vetch, a man who claims to have been around when Darkhenge was built, and he offers to take Rob through it to rescue Chloe, who is a prisoner in the Unworld, which might be another dimension, or the labyrinth of her own mind. So far so good, but then the book twisted, as books sometimes do.
Chloe took over. She didn’t want to be rescued. In fact she beginning to enjoy being the queen of this place that she could control. And for once, her brother was at her mercy.
It was an interesting way to explore the rivalries between brothers and sisters, older and younger, first and second. Big enough in real life, but magnified weirdly in a place where nothing is straightforward and everyone wears masks.
Myth experts will spot the references not just to Taliesin and Ceridwen but also to Persephone and Hades. It also gave me the chance to write about being an archaeologist, and the physical feel of digging and unearthing; the textures of soil and wood. Some archaeologists have written to tell me they enjoyed it, so that can’t be bad.
Drawing from the ancient Celtic tale of Taliesin and Ceridwen, Fisher crafts a complex and frightening story of family love and jealousy… The novel plays out in a terrifying race against time and primordial evil to free Chloe from the grip of a malevolent force of her own making. While steeped in early myth and fantasy, this is an exploration of the responsibility of familes to speak honestly to one another. The venerable tale meshes with Rob and Chloe’s interactions, and readers unfamiliar with the old story will nevertheless be swept up in the mystery and dark magic. .a challenging read but one that is ultimately very satisfying.
School Library review, USA
..the Unworld is both a manifestation of Chloe’s comatose brain synapses and a very real kingdom of tales wwhere she is held captive. Most of the narrative sticks to Rob’s third person viewpoint, but brief flashes of Chloe’s thoughts add brilliant potency. Chloe ventures deeper and deeper from caer to caer, all brimming with symbols from her real relationship with Rob, which it turns out- was wrought with pain. The portrayal is delicate and poetic, the journey frightening, with suspense that builds as young, bitter Chloe decides whether or not to return to life.
Kirkus Review, USA Feb 06
Following her bent for the atmospheric and mythological, Fisher fuels Darkhenge with themes and patterns taken from Welsh legend cycle the Mabinogion… Vetch tells Rob that Chloe has gone to Annwn, a place between life and death. Rob can reach her by passing through the henge, but first he must get past Clare- and, as Vetch points out, he must also confront his own rivalry with Chloe.. Fisher focuses on immediate events with painstaking attention, laying out the bigger picture only slowly, leaving the intrigued reader to fill in details and connections. She blurs together the unseen movements of the subconscious with the psychological underpinnings of myth, evoking myth’s ties to pagan nature and creating a dark, enigmatic mis-en-scène filled with vividly concrete natural imagery. A complex fantasy that resonates with strangeness, mysticism, and magic.
Horn Book Magazine, USA.