Cart And Cwidder
- Oxford University Press
- Publication Date:
- 06 February 2003
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I like everything Diana Wynne Jones has written. The reason I like this book in particular is because I love the fact that it is about a family of singers who travel in a cart. I also like the way DWJ builds the mythology of the world - things that happened 200 years before the time of the book are vibrant stories. I like the characters, but it is the world and the mythology which is truly special in Cart and Cwidder.
This book is a quick read, so any problems I might have had with it are mitigated by that fact. The characters, especially Brid and Moril, move about the story in a sort of matter-of-fact way no matter what happens, from the death of a loved one to the conducting of great magical feats. It all seems to be the same to them. But this is what it is, not a 1,000-page world-building epic, just the story of some kids making their way through the dangerous world around them. It keeps you reading and the end promises more adventures to come.
I remembered loving <i>Cart and Cwidder</i> when I was a kid and basically new to Diana Wynne Jones. So was afraid it wouldn't really stand up to adult levels of scrutiny... or worse, I'd become one of those adults she talks about who need everything explained twice!I still don't know which better explains my lukewarm reaction on my reread. I can only state my general complaint is its unformed-ness, perhaps attributable to the fact that the first three books of the Dalemark Quartet were completely early in her career (<i>Cart</i> being her first foray into 'high' fantasy).Moril and his family are traveling musicians, who bring not only entertainment, but also important news and messages to the towns they frequent throughout divided Dalemark. Moril can't remember any other life and his only foreseeable future involves better learning to play the cwidder-- that is, until his father comes under the suspicion of being a spy and his family is thrown into the conflict between squabbling earldoms.Jones starts off all her plots vaguely. But <i>Cart</i> is even vague when I expected the story to 'go in for the kill'. Though her protagonist Moril is very nicely drawn, other characters vary from quickly-sketched to mostly inscrutable-- subsequently detaching me from the book's many emotional shifts even while I intellectually admired their complexities. The character that most suffers from this is Dalemark itself, and while some of this is probably intentional, the history of Dalemark is not rich enough to provide context for all the political intrigues.Don't get my wrong, I still enjoyed the better part of <i>Cart</i>. The narrative just isn't quite able to zero in on the story at the same time as the characters are (discovering the nature of the conflict). Ultimately, what is meant to be open-ended, really seems to be punctuated by a giant question mark.
I enjoyed this one, and I entirely agree with what wisewoman says about it. I liked the "Ruritanian" setting of quarrelsome earls and travelling minstrels, but I too felt that the death of Clennen made startlingly little impact on the other characters. Also, for a world in which such powerful magic could on occasion be exercised, it seemed strange that the culture made such scant acknowledgement of its existence: but perhaps it was presumed to be very rare or merely a matter of legend. But the characters and the setting are nicely drawn. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the set eventually. MB 25-i-10
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