Book Review: Darkhenge by Catherine Fisher

Last summer I read Fisher’s Crown of Acorns. I liked the idea and style, but felt she could have done more to draw out the subtleties of the interwoven plot-lines; and I was left with an overwhelming frustration at the disappointment of a missed opportunity with the novel’s structure. With all the narratives revolving in triplets, it seemed a stark oversight to have the book split into two parts, rather than three.

Not so with Darkhenge. Richly metaphorical and deeply imaginative, this story transports us into dark and tangled inner realms where time and eternity drink from the same well. Fisher’s perfectly crafted narrative, where every word is itself a henge – a carrier and creator of worlds within worlds, develops subtle ideas with poetic resonance and texture. Uncovering the roots of our past and present, she demonstrates the power of the Word in this world and the unworld, the Annwn.

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Structured around the Celtic Ogham alphabet, with its corresponding tree symbols, words and worlds are formed by the living energies at play. Quotations from The Book of Taliesin and The Battle Of The Trees head each chapter; ideas and symbolisms infuse every episode, breathing ancient life into its pages.

In this tale of light and shadow, the dark underworld of the human subconscious is brought to life through Rob’s struggle to rescue his sister from the coma that’s claimed her for the past three months – and her struggle to return to the surface.

Chloe is trapped in a strange perpetual twilight, surrounded by trees and confined by a masked captor.

Midway through, the plot changes pace, shifting up a gear. It’s an unputdownable adventure through the tangled forests of Annwn, with everything at stake. It’s also relentless, challenging, exhausting.

Like all true Stories this one works on a multitude of levels – it’s at work in infinite dimensions all at once. It’s possible to feel your own imagination expanding as you read: to watch the knotted branches and twisted roots growing, deepening, spreading.

It’s an initiation, a transformation. And a superbly crafted story.

Drawing deeply on the inspiration of The Mabinogion, Robert Graves’s The White Goddess, and John Matthews’s Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman, this YA novel is a literary masterpiece of spiritual and poetic genius. I wish I’d written it myself!

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Darkhenge by Catherine Fisher

  1. Thank you for explaining the origin of the letters! I was so curious! Celtic Ogham alphabet? Never would have figured that out on my own!

    1. Thanks Suzanne! I absolutely loved the book. It’s been a while since I’ve read it now, but I could easily read it again – it was so rich with meaning. Have you read any other books by Catherine Fisher?

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