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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

West of the Moon by Katherine Langrish

Title: West of the Moon
Author: Katherine Langrish
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's
Published: 2011
Genre: Children's fantasy

Find it at Amazon UK

The Blurb says...
It is a time of dark magic and fearsome creatures - a time of Vikings and heroes ...

Alone after his father's death, Peer Ulfsson struggles for survival against natural and supernatural enemies. Then he meets beautiful, adventurous Hilde, who tells him of a land that lies East of the sun and West of the moon.

When a dragonship visits at their village, Peer and Hilde seize the chance to set sail for this legendary country. But on board they hear whispers of ghosts, murder and witchcraft. What icy-hearted evil awaits them in the new land?

A dark, brooding and epic fantasy adventure.

My verdict: a rollicking fantasy with wonderful characters in an amazing setting.  Highly recommended for fantasy/adventure lovers of 9+
This book is a newly-produced (and rewritten) single-volume version of Langrish's earlier trilogy: Troll Fell, Troll Mill and Troll Blood (which I hadn't read, so can't compare).

The central character of this saga is Peer. When we meet him, his father has just died, which would probably be enough to help us warm to him as a character, together with his clear love and loyalty for his dog, Loki. However, Langrish makes absolutely sure; we are rapidly whisked away from the first scene into a situation that becomes Dahlesque (or fairy tale like) in its cruelty, guaranteeing our affection and admiration for Peer. Most of the novel is told from his perspective, although all is third-person narration.

Hilde's point of view is also presented at regular intervals, and we also build up respect and affection for her, although her vulnerability isn't as great. A hint of romance develops, and I particularly liked how this was handled. It was enough of a thread to enrich the action-focused plotlines and interest older teen readers, but not enough to alienate younger readers, or those more interested in the quest type narratives.

The setting of this book is crucial and adds depth. There are beautifully descriptive touches which evoke the landscape effectively, but never enough to slow the plot. The folklore of the lands evoked is also a key feature of West of the Moon. There are fabulous creatures (none of which are cute and cuddly - even the helpful ones are moody!) and I appreciated learning more about the established folklore Langrish was drawing on from her website. I also follow her blog - there is a wealth of myth, folklore and fairy tale information there. This area is clearly an interest for the author, and it has added a valuable additional layer to the story.

The only less-than-positive comment I have to make is about the blurb on the back cover. It relates largely to Part 3 of the novel (i.e. the third book in the trilogy), which I think is a shame. Obviously, I realise the author has no control over such things, and that blurbs often do contain some 'spoiler' elements, but I think it would have been fairly easy to base the blurb on Part 1. Clearly this is a very minor point, though!

Overall, I would strongly recommend you buy and read this - seriously, what are you waiting for! I will lend it to my 12 yr old (and am sure she will love it), and have promised the 7 yr old I will read it to her in a year or so (I think its length is a bit daunting for her now, and some of the danger sequences may be a bit too exciting at this point).

I won my copy from Lucy Coats' blog at Scribble City Central, during the author's blog tour. For more info on the book and the author, it's well worth checking out some of the posts from that tour.

This is my sixth review for the British Books Challenge hosted by The Bookette.


  1. Lovely review. I'm not sure I read the blurb so I can't comment on that. But I guess the third part is where Peer really comes of age.

  2. What a great review. Now on my waiting tbr.


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