Red Fox Books ISBN 0-09-947298-4
The Glass Tower is a Trilogy that brings together three of Catherine Fisher’s earliest Novels; The Conjuror’s Game, Fintan’s Tower, and The Candle Man.
The Conjuror’s Game
A novel which was shortlisted for the 1990 Smarties Award. Alick wonders where Luke Ferris gets his healing powers, why he has six fingers and what his connections are with the sinister goings-on in Halcombe Great Wood. Unwittingly, Alick unleashes dark and terrifying forces on the world.
Jamie and his sister Jen are drawn into a world of sorcery on a quest to rescue the prisoner from Fintan’s Tower. The author also wrote “The Conjuror’s Game”, which was shortlisted for the Smarties Award.
The Candle Man
The story of Conor who lives in an isolated part of Wales, reclaimed long ago from the sea. When Conor meets a strange fiddler out on the levels, he is intrigued and is soon persuaded to help the man, Meurig, steal back a candle which, if allowed to burn away, will end Meurig’s life.
The Glass Tower is a bind-up of three of my earliest novels; The Conjuror’s Game, Fintan’s Tower, and The Candle Man.
The Conjuror’s Game was originally published by The Bodley Head in 1990 and a year later in paperback by Red Fox (www.kidsatrandomhouse.co.uk). It was the first novel I’d published in Britain and really the start of my writing career. I suppose I look at it now as very much an apprentice piece- I was learning how to write a novel as I went along, and finding it an exhilarating and wild ride.
The hero of the story is Alick, who lives with his dad above a secondhand bookshop in a snowy village in Halcombe Great Wood, which I modelled on several places, but mostly the Forest of Dean. Alick meets Luke Ferris, a local wise man, fascinating because he has six fingers on each hand and a strange pet animal that is sometimes a cat and sometimes a bird and sometimes a horse. Luke owns a version of the ancient board game called fidchel, and Alick starts the game by mistake, and loses the key piece, a tiny black and gold tree. This begins the terrifying contest to get the tree back while the opposing forces of Knights and Ravens rampage through the villages of the Great Wood in search of it.
The idea of the magic game is a very ancient one, and I took mine from a tale in the Welsh collection of stories called the Mabinogi, where two kings, Arthur and Owein, play fidchel while their armies fight each other outside. The novel was shortlisted for the Smarties Prize, and I was very pleased about that.
Fintan’s Tower was my second novel, again from the Bodley Head in 1991. I remember not liking the original cover art at all! But I enjoyed writing the novel, and found I’d learned a lot from the first one. Fintan’s Tower is a building that lies somewhere in the Otherworld, and holds an age-old prisoner and a magic cauldron. Jamie and Jennie find a magical book that shows them the way, but then are kidnapped by a pair of strangers who know far more about the dangers of the Tower than they do.
As I mention in the Author’s Note, the idea for this book came from an ancient poem called The Spoils of Annwn, so old and broken that it’s hard to read, but it seems to tell the story of a raid, made by Arthur on a tower in the Otherworld. I love the Arthurian myths, especially the Welsh versions, and from them I took a lot of elements of this story- Cai, the Oldest Animals, and the Cauldron itself.
The Candle Man is a bit of favourite because it’s set on the Gwent Levels very near where I live. It’s a flat, marshy, eerie landscape, of small fields intersected by ditches of algae-green water called reens. In 1606 the whole area was flooded by a massive storm surge. Even today, only the sea-wall keeps the river Severn out. I wanted to include the Severn as a character in the book, so I gave her, her Welsh name, Hafren, and made her very powerful and deadly, exactly like the river, which has one of the highest tides in the world. I also used a very old folktale motif, of a man, Meurig, whose soul is imprisoned in an object- in this case a small, ordinary white candle.
If anyone lights the candle and allows it to burn down, he’ll die- or so Meurig believes. So he gets his friends Sara and Connor to find the candle for him, but then things go wrong, and it falls into the hands of Hafren, his most bitter enemy.
This is a book I really enjoyed writing, mostly because the wet, mist-hung landscape is so full of possibilities. I also liked using the unique vocabularies of the Severn- words like reen and gout, and all the quirky names of the fields and waterways. Shaping a modern story around an old one has become something of a characteristic of my work; this was where it first begins to succeed, I think. The external soul idea goes right back to the ancient Greeks, who had a story of how Meleager’s soul was held in a piece of wood. It’s also been used more recently in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. A good story never dies.