Bewitched by Wales?

Pennard Castle
As seems to be my wont I stumbled across Phil Rickman's Candlenight by accident. I'd never heard of the author before, and of course had read none of his books. Candlenight was his first novel, and pretty darned good it is too.

Candlenight is a (largely gentle) horror-fantasy with the occasional ghoulish sequence, with nods to The Wicker Man (original version naturally, not the awful Nicholas Cage mish-mash), Susan Cooper's Dark is rising sequence, and, perhaps most strongly, the teen-fantasy novels of Alan Garner.

When the wife of that most English of journalists, Giles Freeman, inherits a property in a remote Welsh village, Giles is eager to become more Welsh than the Welsh despite the warning that a terrible fate can befall an Englishman in Wales. As the village casts its spell though, Giles realises that an ancient evil is brewing in the hills surrounding this deceptively beautiful valley. Can the (horribly named) Berry Morelli and local teacher, Bethan McQueen, restore the village to the twentieth-century?

At times comic, usually spooky, and with some stand-out moments of horror and a particularly effective ending, I thoroughly enjoyed Candlenight - part horror, part fantasy, part social commentary; an oddly appropriate book to be reading a week before the vote on Scottish independence. Written in 1995, it does show some signs of aging. I felt a little exasperated sometimes by the way in which Welsh characters were portrayed (I would suspect that an English person might say the same about the portrayal of the English characters); but there was a huge amount to admire in this novel. And for a genuinely creepy read, this takes a bit of beating.


Popular Posts