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Moonwise by Greer Ilene Gilman


by Greer Ilene Gilman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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226577,424 (4.13)6
  1. 00
    Halfway House by Frances Hardinge (TheSpecialistsCat)
    TheSpecialistsCat: kin to Gilman's magic (find it in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007)
  2. 00
    Run, River, Run: A Naturalist's Journey Down One of the Great Rivers of the West by Ann Zwinger (TheSpecialistsCat)
    TheSpecialistsCat: Landscapes and the experience of being in them and moving through them. Prose like sedimented poetry, infused with a love of words.

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» See also 6 mentions

Showing 5 of 5
I'm still about 80 pages from the end, but I think I'll put in my review now.

This is a marvelous, imaginative, well-researched book. Anyone who is contemplating reading this book should know that first off. The depth of knowledge of traditional English folklore that forms the basis of this book runs all through it. The friendship between the two main characters, adult women, is deep and rich, and the fact that there is no male love interest makes my heart sing. An imagined world that comes alive is always a wonderful theme of fantasy books.


I think Gillman's editor could have done her more service to have asked her to write a book of poetry or add poetry to this book, to channel the use of such deep and rich language. While I love writers who channel lyrical voices (Guy Gavriel Kay, Patricia A. McKillip), this book loses its way in its use of overly-descriptive language with every single sentence. Really. Every sentence. It's too much. And the lack of any real action makes the limited action that is written almost dull. There is a lot of tramping through a world covered in snow with very little food or adequate clothing, every character wears some form of a ragged cloak, and the emphasis on folkloric English dialect makes for difficult reading. Leaves are everywhere, the conflict between the two witches is sort of a given with no real history, and the transformation of the landscape almost daily becomes confusing. Again, I think that Gillman's editor could have used a stronger red pen to limit the reader's wading through thick language and emphasized a true story line that, well, went somewhere, or explained why the world of Cloud was formed the way it was.

It's possible to read it in smaller or larger sections, with limited distractions, but it is necessary to read it in a long, continuous stream; if you put it down, pick it up soon! ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
Once, long ago, I read William Morris's 'The Water of the Wondrous Isles', which begins with the immortal words "Whilom, as tells the tale, was a walled cheaping-town hight Utterhay which was builded in a bight of the land a little off the great highway … hard on the borders of a wood which men held to be mighty great, or maybe measureless", and carries on like that for another 360 pages. This book reminded me a lot of that experience. "Beautiful, poetic and challenging" says one of the Amazon reviews; if it is, I failed the challenge. I will grant it the first two points, but it becomes bogged down in the author's fondness for words – clever words; I feel that many a dictionary word-of-the-day perished to make up this collection. If the words had together added up to more than the slenderest of storylines, then it might have been an altogether easier read; as it was, I struggled with every page. Oh, and whilst I don't fault the author for her fondness for Steeleye Span, she does rather push it to the limit here. ( )
2 vote phoebesmum | Aug 14, 2011 |
Atmospheric more than plot-driven, but gorgeous language. And lovely to re-read, with more of the depth and wordplay coming to light each successive time. ( )
  jkrossner | Jul 11, 2010 |
Strange, dense, not easy to read--but still memorable almost two decades after reading it. Sui generis and a mind-stretching treat for anyone who loves language and is steeped in the substratum of fantasy and legend where good fantasy originates. ( )
  ecrowe | Mar 13, 2010 |
Greer Gilman’s Moonwise is a fantasy novel, about a magical world, invented in childhood, which becomes real, and about Ariane’s quest to find her friend Sylvie who has vanished within it.

And Hamlet is a drama about a young man who doesn’t get on with his step-father.

The bald summary makes Moonwise sound like a thousand other fantasies: the reunion of the two friends, their tentative return to the world of their imaginings, with its narratives and rituals, its magical talismans and its mythology, Sylvie’s disappearance, Ariane’s pursuit and the mysterious denizens of Cloud who accompany her, all these could be mixed into an entertaining but unremarkable brew.

That’s not the remarkable thing about Moonwise, not what won it the Crawford Award for the best first fantasy novel of the year, when it was first published in 1991. That’s not what earned it the praise of people like John Clute (who compares it to Tolkien, and to Hope Mirrlees’ Lud-in-the-Mist) and Diana Wynne Jones (who calls it “an amazing book, a work of genius”).

The remarkable thing about Moonwise, in fact, is the language, dense and punning, rich in archaism and ambiguity. It is not a light and easy read, a tale to be gulped down in one draught. Some readers will be deterred by the need to chew each mouthful carefully, to suck out the substantific marrow. Those who do not enjoy riddles and crosswords, who have never picked up a dictionary to look up one word and found themselves browsing the entry next to it, those who think that prose should be transparent, invisibly connecting the reader and the story - they are not likely to enjoy this book. But those who do enjoy these things will return to reread and find new treasures, new allusions: to the ballads of English folklore, and to the Victorian fairy tales of George Macdonald.

This is the opposite of transparent prose: the words are not an invisible medium which conveys the story, they are the story, and they make a virtue of that fact. Gilman’s prose is as dark and prickly as the woodlands of Cloud, and as hard to pin down. It is the landscape of that invented land, a northern Arcadia where the frost bites hard through the ragged clothes of the shepherds. Like the mythology of Cloud, the language is build around a family of dualities: Ariane and Sylvie (air and forest), the sister goddesses Malykorne and Annis, tree and standing stone, the dark and light phases of the moon in its cyclical death and rebirth. Simple, concrete oppositions: but fold your paper often enough, and a few simple cuts will create all the intricate beauty of a snowflake.

Moonwise is a pleasure for the ear as well as for the mind. In an interview for the SFsite http://www.sfsite.com/02b/gr170.htm, Greer Gilman told Sherwood Smith: “Words are like bright stones that you have to put in your mouth, to taste the curve and edge of them, their cool. If I've done it right, people tell me, ‘I just had to read that aloud.’” The handsome new hardback edition from Prime Books is easy on the eye, too, with its neat little moons at the head of each chapter, and its typeface which makes the most of every exclamatory O.
6 vote shewhomust | May 20, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greer Ilene Gilmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Canty, ThomasCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Delia, who undid the knots,
and for all who sang the skein:
the voices out of Cloud,
and Lucy
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There was a green bough hanging on the door.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Ariane came to visit Sylvie at midwinter, hoping to rekindle the old magic of their girlhood game: the Nine Worlds, a fantastical universe founded in a handful of marbles and a tarot of cards, whose myths and kingdoms the two friends had chronicled between them. But when Sylvie disappeared in a moonlit wood, Ariane followed her - not into the familiar ground of their fantasy, but into the thorns and winter of a Cloud they had never invented, a world where ballads were constellations and the moon hunted souls by night...
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