I had never heard of Joan Aiken until I checked her bibliography then it turned out I have heard of (but never read) her after all, sometimes I despair of my memory.
Alan Lee, most famous these days for his Tolkien illustrations amongst other things does the art so quality is assured on both words and pictures.
Set in an English seaside town circa 1500 AD, a young chap Seppy wants to learn to be the best fiddler in the world. After a mysterious encounter he learns that the moon will grant his wish, however there is a price to pay for his gift.
The story itself is classic kids fare, with magic, curses, bits of repetition and not being particularly complex. Having said that though, it is inventive and fun and does draw you in from the first page.
Lee’s illustrations are fantastic, there is plenty of mist and darkness, evoking a haunting and mysterious atmosphere. There is a theme of nature’s power that runs through the books as well. There is a lot of depth for the drawings, I did find myself coming back to them at the end of the book and just enjoying the beauty of them again.
All in all, this is a book that you will spend a lot more time on than you may at first imagine, given that it’s a thin tome and return to time and again, if not to enjoy the story but to escape into the pictures and soak up that mysterious olde worlde vibe. This goes to reiterate the treasures that can still be found in second hand bookshops and why it’s better to shop there than eBay or these characterless high street shops, in my humble opinion.