Monday, December 16, 2013

MMGM: A trip to Wales

Entering read-a-thons is probably not a good idea for me. It's not like I need any more encouragement to spend all my waking hours with my nose in a book!

I've now finished the five books of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence (for the umpteenth time, I might add), and I can confidently recommend them to anyone with an interest in High Magic and the ancient battle between Light and Dark. If you like C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, Philip Pullman, Madeleine L'Engle, Ursula K. LeGuin--Susan Cooper stands right up there with them, weaving bits of Welsh and Arthurian myth with her own version of the eternal struggle, all planted firmly in real landscapes of the British Isles. (My last post has more descriptions of the five books of the series.)

I had the additional fun on this read-through of using Google Earth to trace the protagonists' journeys through Wales. Search for Aberdovey, Wales, when you're reading Silver on the Tree, for example, and you can find the Bearded Lake on the hillside above it (follow Panorama Walk). You can even use Streetview to see the view of Happy Valley that Jane, Simon and Barnaby saw, and get some images of the estuary at the mouth of the river, where Will and Bran come back from the Lost Land.

I also have some pictures from my own trip to Wales several years ago (which unfortunately wasn't long enough for me to visit all the places Cooper mentions). There are three pics in my previous post, and here are two more. This is Llyn Mwyngil, the 'pleasant lake' where the Sleepers lie in The Grey King. The first picture is looking across the lake at the slopes of Cader Idris; Will Stanton stood somewhere up there to play the harp that woke the Sleepers. The second picture is looking down the lake toward Tal-y-Lyn pass (green slopes of Cader Idris on the left)(and I'm sure that's one of the Light's swans):

If you're enamoured of all things Welsh, you can round out your reading experience with another classic kids' fantasy series: Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain. Based on the tales of the Mabinogion, the five short novels tell the story of Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper, and his motley group of friends who must fight against Arawn, Lord of Death. I adored these books when I was a kid. Taran is one of the most accessible epic heroes: he tries so hard and falls flat on his face so often! (I think I found him a true kindred spirit.) I haven't reread these in a while; think they might be my next readathon.

If the Hobbit movie has got you in an epic fantasy mood, Cooper and Alexander are some of the originals of the genre. (I find it funny that people say Alexander was ripping off Tolkien: truth is they were both ripping off mythology!)

For more great Middle-grade picks, check out Shannon Messenger's slate of marvelous bloggers.


  1. I'm a super slow reader so readathons are good for me! ;)
    I love High Magic and all kinds of ancient battles, but MG hasn't been working out well for me lately, but I'll keep this one on my TBR shelf. Also, those pictures, I love. I can almost feel the breeze and smell nature and oh would it be nice to read books in there!

  2. Oh, the Google Earth idea is leaving me breathless! I need to figure out how to use something like that in a library program. (Yes, I'm slow catching up on my Feedly. I only just got here).

  3. How have I not read anything by Cooper before? I love high fantasy and the setting sounds awesome. I will have to pick up this series soon.

    Love the pictures you shared, too! Makes me want to travel. ;)