|Joan Aiken: Whispering Mountain|
(Paperback), ISBN 0-765-34241-3
Upon his father's disappearance and his mother's death, young Owen relocates from the Far East to the small Welsh village of Pennygaff. There, he suffers bullying from schoolmates and lives with his cold-hearted paternal grandfather in a dusty old museum. The museum's treasures include a recently-acquired, magical golden harp, one which many stake a claim to, including the evil Lord Malyn.
While Owen's Grandfather interviews prospective rightful owners, he leaves the Harp of Teirtu in care of Owen. When two ill-mannered thieves break into the museum, Owen tries to prevent the harp from falling into the wrong hands. Instead, he gets tied up and left behind in a deserted cave of the Whispering Mountain while the thieves flee with the harp. With the help of his former enemies, his gypsy friend Arabis and her father Tom Dando, as well as a cast of delightful characters (including a Scottish prince!) Owen restores order to Pennygaff and returns the magical harp to its rightful owner.
Published in 1968, Aiken's Welsh adventure shares many similarities in structure, flavor and style with Lloyd Alexander's more recent Prydain Chronicles (1988). Each book, however, follows its own path. Nevertheless, if you enjoyed following Taran through Alexander's texts, you'll probably enjoy Owen's fantastic journey as well.
Sometimes humorous, at times sad, but always filled with engaging action, The Whispering Mountain proves worthy of the Guardian Prize for Fiction. It also stands tall among this year's Tor Starscape reissues, to include Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow and Howard Pyle's The Garden Behind the Moon.
Lynne Marie Pisano
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