Friday, November 12, 2010

At Last: Pt. 1

The Touchstone Trilogy, by Steve Augarde is a brilliant series of what I am dubbing “not-quite-fantasy”. The Various, introduces us to Midge, a young girl who’s concert violinist mother sends her to stay at the family farm with her uncle and cousins. On the property is an impenetrable wood at the top of a hill. In this wood, unbeknownst to the humans, live five tribes of little people, collectively known as “the various”.

The Various have an interesting system of society, but are troubled by food shortages, prejudice, and the constant possibility of discovery by the giants known as Gorji (humans). The Ickri are the ruling class and hunters. The only ones with wings, which are used for gliding rather than flight. Tinklers and Troggles are cave dwellers who are very looked down upon and considered strange. (Tinklers being called such for the sound made when working metal.) Naiads are the farmers. Wisps the fishermen and most often glimpsed by humans, being the only ones to leave the safety of the wood.

Needless to say, Midge discovers this world of little people inadvertently when she discovers an injured winged horse called Pegs (mysterious and rare even among the Various) in one of the abandoned barns on the farm.

When Midge’s Uncle Brian considers selling off the wood to a developer, Midge has to find a way to save the woods’ inhabitants, while safeguarding the secret of their existence. She is taken into the wood by Pegs, and finds his people much different than the popular vision of fairies. Taller than one might think, roughly two feet in height, they are shabby and ragged, some are even dirty and hairy. They are a rugged lot, eking out an existence under less than desirable circumstances. She also has to defend herself from those among the warrior clan, led by the creepy and vicious Scurl, who believe that no Gorji can be trusted, and she should therefore die before she tells others about them.

Midge also discovers things about her Great Aunt Celandine, who is veiled in almost as much mystery as the Various themselves…..according to family legend, she was a bit off….claimed to have seen fairies, of all things. Did Midge’s Great Aunt know about the Various? Midge learns that she is not the first “Gorji maiden” to find out about the Various, and there are those who believe that she is the mysterious Celandine returned…..some believe that the story of Celandine is just that, a story. But then, how does that explain the tiny cup that mysteriously appears inscribed to Celandine?

Ok, this is making me want to completely re-read the series…..

The Touchstone trilogy is without doubt one of the most original stories….I cannot begin to say enough good about them. It is strange, as much as I usually go for the magical, fantastical, and un-ordinary, this series is strangely ordinary. It is a completely feasible (not that I think that the more magical things are less feasible) story set in extremely realistic settings in the UK. I would completely be unsurprised if Steve Augarde admitted that he didn’t come up with it, but in fact was only telling the tale of something that happened on his own land, or that of a close friend. Really. Call me gullible, but it is just that believable. I used to try and try to get to Narnia….even though I knew that A.) that world was ended already (I read The Last Battle) and B.) no one ever got to Narnia by trying. I have a great imagination, and am completely open to the possibility of a magical world hiding within our own. But the Various aren’t really magical…..mysterious, yes. Maybe even Mystical. Totally and completely just another race of being that the human world has not “discovered”.

This is the "new and improved" US cover art. I don't like it as well as the "real" cover art. I am sure that it would attract younger readers.

To be continued....

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