The Dalemark Quartet

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Mertz! By the way, adding images to these posts is about the most frustrating thing I do, ever. So make sure you look at them, soak them up, take it all in, cause after this we’re moving on and you’re not allowed to scroll back up and take another gander.

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Anyway, these two volumes hold a collection of four books that I absolutely adore. They’re full of the types of things any good fantasy should have: made up words, political intrigue, folk gods, and names that have vaguely Welsh spellings. (ALL fantasy names should have way too many vowels and throwing a y in unexpectedly makes it ten times better).

The series starts with a family of traveling minstrels. The kingdom of Dalemark is divided between the North & South. The earls in the North are comparably free-minded and allow their people more personal freedoms than the earls of the South. Thus there’s a sort of political tension between the two. Travelling back and forth is restricted except for business related travel which makes the Moril (the main character)’s father the perfect spy. Unsurprisingly, he is killed pretty early in the story.

The adventure that follows is equal parts spy drama and medieval caper. Moril and his siblings find out that their dad wasn’t just a spy, but he sort of worked for the gods. And their legacy is to pick up where he left off. Namely, transporting a captured son of a Northern earl from the South to his home. It’s tricky. But they manage it. There’s an avalanche involved. And some magical tunes played on the cwidder.

The second book picks up with a totally random kid who was raised in the South named Alhammitt, Mitt for short. What’s fun about his name is it’s the most common name in South Dalemark. So he plays around with different constructions of his name Mitt Mittson, Al Hamson, and so on. His dad is killed by an earl and Mitt’s carefree childhood running around in the Southern marshes is abruptly cut off. He and his mother move into the city and attempt to scratch out a living. When Mitt’s precocious nature gets him noticed by some political conspirators his mother hatches a plan to turn him into an assassin.

This book is a lot more nautical and explains much more about the political environment in Dalemark.

Mitt’s assassination attempt on the earl goes awry and he ends up hiding out on a toy yacht with the earl’s grandkids and another assassin. They end up in a wicked storm. And then they meet some gods. Kinda cool.

Mitt finds out he has a sort of calling on his life and tries to get ready for it. He meets Moril and his family near the end of the book I think.

Mitt is my favourite character in the series.

The third book jumps way back in the fantasy timeline to the prehistoric dwellers of Dalemark: The Spellcoats. The Spellcoats is the most mythical of the quartet. It’s a time when the gods still interacted with humans (even falling in love with them and marrying) and magic was part of daily life. The children of Closti the Clam find themselves orphaned and facing not-so-friendly neighbours as well as an evil Mage named Kankredin slowly making his way upriver and polluting The Riverlands in an attempt to conquer their lands.

Kankredin plays a pretty dirty game – stealing the souls of the people he conquers. And Tanaqui (our newest heroine) discovers that her ability to weave magic into coats will help her people. She ends up setting an ancient god free and becoming one of the Undying herself. Turns out she played a role in the first book and her brother, Duck, features heavily in the last book as another member of the Undying.

The Crown of Dalemark wraps it all up with a century crossing timeline that pulls modern-day Maewen into a sort of Joan of Arc adventure. She meets Mitt (as well as almost all the other main characters of the first three books) and attempts to catch up with all the intrigue. Duck pulled her back to fill the shoes of a young lady who disappeared without telling Maewen much anything else. And Kankredin shows back up in these “pockets of evil” still attempting to pollute Dalemark. The kingdom is finally united thanks to Maewen and Mitt’s efforts. Though Maewen is just as abruptly sent back to her time. (I’ll be honest, her return home is one of the saddest things I’ve ever read.)

The first three books were published between 1975-1979. The Crown of Dalemark was published in 1993, almost 20 years after the first book. It’s an absolutely fantastic series. In fact, they were sort of re-marketed for fans of Harry Potter. Sometimes I feel as though a muse plays the role of guide when I’m in a library, and whichever one was working that day… Well, she knew what she was doing.

I highly endorse these books. And if you think you’re too old to enjoy YA Fantasy start mentoring a kid and read it along with them. The political plot plays well into teaching kids about the political status of North and South Korea. So, it’s multi-educational. 🙂

Grab a book and celebrate the fact that you are free to read!

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