Are you the kind of person that loves series that involve fantasy, history, maybe some romance, and a good amount of tension? Then I guess you should probably just go ahead and check out the Dalemark series. After all – it’s all of that, and more!
For centuries, Dalemark has been a land divided by the warring earldoms of the North and South. Now, with the help of the mysterious gods of Dalemark, four extraordinary young people must join forces to reunify their beloved home.
Cart and Cwidder
When twelve-year-old Moril’s father is murdered by soldiers, Moril inherits his ancient cwidder – a musical instrument with a mysterious past. As Moril and his siblings embark on a dangerous journey to escape the evil forces around them, he gradually learns how to channel the cwidder’s strange and powerful magic. But is it enough to protect those he loves from the looming threat of war? (Goodreads)
After his father mysteriously goes missing Mitt joins a group of freedom fighters plotting to overthrow the tyrannical ruler of Holand. But when his assassination attempt against the earl backfires, Mitt stows away on board a ship heading out to sea. As the boat is battered by storms Mitt finds himself alone among his enemies – except for the strange straw figure of Dalemark demigod Drowned Ammet tied to the prow of the ship… (Goodreads)
‘I had not seen how they hated us till I heard them shout. It was terrible.’
Tanaqui and her family have always known they were somehow different from the other villagers. But when the great floods come and they are driven from their home, they begin to realise the part they must play in the destiny of the land.
As Tanaqui weaves the story of their frightening journey to the sea and the terrifying, powerful evil of the mage Kankredin, she realises the desperate need to understand the meaning of it all. Can she fit the pieces of the puzzle together in time to halt Kankredin’s destruction? (Goodreads)
The Crown of Dalemark
‘Mitt arrived at the top of the steps, panting, and pushed open the door. “Oh, there you are,” said the Countess. “We want you to kill someone.”’
Since his arrival in the North of Dalemark Mitt has become disillusioned. The North seems no more free than the Holand he fled, a fugitive accused of attempted murder. And now he is trapped by the order to kill someone he doesn’t know or else risk the lives of his friends. Forced once more to flee, Mitt is joined by Moril, the quietly powerful musician, and Maewen – out of her time, but mysteriously fated to play a part in their quest. For the evil powers of the mage Kankredin are re-assembling, and only the Adon’s gifts – the ring, sword and cup – can once more unit Dalemark. (Goodreads)
The best thing about the Dalemark series, is how varied it is. Spellcoats offers some historical (mythological) background into the world of Dalemark. Cart an Cwidder as well as Drowned Ammet show the vastly different sides of the world in what might have been the 17th or the 19th century – it’s kind of hard to tell. Finally, there’s The Crown of Dalemark, which connects (the characters from) the previous three books, yet also includes the present day. (This one’s my favourite, by the way, exactly because it does combine all that is good from the previous ones!)
And when I said the time frame is kind of difficult to determine? That’s actually linked directly to one of the things I love most about all of Diane Wynne Jones’ writing: while there are clearly influences from our world and history? The worlds she creates are also always distinctly not our own world. While Mitt lives in a world where there is a “Holland”, it’s not quite the Holland I know and live near to. While the fourth book gives some insight into a system of universities that seems similar to the one the UK and the United Netherlands might have known mid 1700s? It’s also very much so not that one.
There’s this constant dissonance between the world you know and expect to find, and the one that is actually Dalemark. That just goes to show, though, how wonderfully crafted the entire Dalemark world actually is. After all, without Diana Wynne Jone’s masterly word crafting, I wouldn’t have gotten sucked into this magical world where tapestries determine history, rather than depict it. Where every character offers you new depths of knowledge and stories that are (at the worst) only hinted at.
Room for more
If I could utter one point of criticism for this series, it would probably have to be exactly this: there are many characters I would’ve liked to learn more about. There’s this thing where certain people don’t age – what’s up with that? Who was the first person to randomly discover that? How does everyone cope after the adventures are over? What happened to the tapestry? There are so many question… But then again, if the worst thing you can say about a series, is that you just felt there wasn’t enough of it? I’d say they did well.
If you want a series that’s suitable for 12 yo and up, but that still holds a lot of beauty – and even allows you to discover a load of new details on a second, and third reread? The Dalemark Quartet is your series! (Goodreads)