Friday, January 29, 2010

The Whispering Mountain - Joan Aiken

"Although the harp was dirty and broken, Owen thought it one of the most beautiful things he had ever seen, and he could not forbear passing his hand round the graceful, flowing lines of the frame, and then plucking with the tip of his finger at the last remaining string. The sound it gave out was low but piercingly clear; it seemed to fill the whole room with echoes."

Owen Hughes has a tough life. His crochety grandfather who runs the Pennygaff museum takes him for granted and constantly finds fault with his work. One night the Telyn Teirtu, the golden harp of legend is stolen from the museum and Owen is accused of the crime. He must recover it before his grandfather or the town of Pennygaff will forgive him. Fortunately he has a few allies to help him along the way. His good friend Arabis, her father and pet bird accompany him on a quest through a dangerous forest, into an underground system of caverns and into Castle Malyn. Unfortunately the castle is owned by the Marquess of Malyk who is obsessed with gold and his guest, the Seljuk of Rum has his own reasons for wanting the harp. Owen must outwit each in turn to reclaim the harp and return it to its rightful place.

My favourite character was Arabis. She's a bit off the wall, talks to her bird a lot but she's original. Owen on the other hand felt somewhat cliche. He's an orphan, the other children in the village bully him and he maybe kinda likes Arabis a little bit.

Aiken has a very lyrical style of writing that made for a very fluid read. I also liked the mythology incorporated into the book. Not only did the story incorporate several different creatures and stories from Welsh legend but they were seamlessly integrated into the story.

My main problem with the book was caring about the main characters. I didn't feel invested with them, despite enjoying Arabis' character. I was really looking forward to this book because it took place in Wales and I thought I'd be safe because this book won a Guardian Award in the 60s. I know other people who have enjoyed this book but it just wasn't for me.

Rating: 2/5

1 comment:

Melwyk said...

I haven't read this one, but there is a 1977 Newbery Honor Book called A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond, which I loved as a teen. It's about a family of three kids who go with their father to Wales, and the boy finds the harp tuning key belonging to Taliesin...mythology & time travel back to the 1500's...I liked it. :)