Book review

Candlefasts by William Mayne (2000)

part three of the 'Earthfasts' trilogy

An extraordinary and fitting climax to the Earthfasts trilogy. Plenty of time travel here because the portal is discovered. If you pass through the centre of the Jingle Stones and then between a particular pair, (and it's best to chalk your mark on them because they do wander about), you can pass into a different time, maybe the past, maybe the future. This portal, in fact, is so well known that Frank and Nellie Jack John have to fence it at lambing time just to keep the lambs safe. It isn't just a question of knowing where the lambs are, it's a question of keeping them safe from the Attercop.

I don't think it was mentioned before, but the Attercop seems to be one of those beasties that lives out on the moor for the sole purpose of scaring the locals. Actually, he's a giant spider, and there are plenty of him - Keith meets a few inadvertently, and Lyddy, David's sparky little half-sister, is pretty keen on roaming through the portal and taking up with all kinds of specimens, boy, dog and spider.

But is there more to this spider? Well, yes there is, but you've got to read the book.

Lots of playing around with time travel in this volume. There's a great little sub-plot with Keith and the lease on Swang. One thing though, if Nellie Jack John came to know the portal so well, (and he was a frequent visitor, intent on trapping Attercop), why didn't he just pop back to his own time? I suppose he must have settled down at Swang and was content with his new life. But there is still that small clue which was left to us at the end of Cradlefasts. Does this mean there will be a fourth volume one day?

Attercop, incidentally, is simply an obsolete word for spider. Plenty of examples of it being used in the sixteenth century, if you care to browse the dictionary. Perhaps it is still in current dialect use where William Mayne comes from. In The Hobbit J R R Tolkien gave Bilbo a little rhyme to sing to infuriate the giant spiders when he was trying to rescue his friends the dwarves in Mirkwood:

Old fat spider spinning in a tree!
Old fat spider can't see me!
Attercop! Attercop!
Won't you stop,
Stop your spinning and look for me?

What can I read next?

Brilliant trilogy. I was enthralled by it. This is the third book, do read them in order:

If you enjoy time travel books, there are one or two really interesting ones. Have a look at this strange, new one by Hans Magnus Enzensberger:

Or Alan Garner's books might interest you:

Or you might feel you would like to try this longer-length one by Jan Mark:

Actually, if you haven't already read it, perhaps you should look next at Philip Pullman's trilogy His Dark Materials:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

Candlefasts features in these lists: