4.0 3
by Catherine Fisher

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It's been three months since Rob's younger sister, Chloe, fell into a coma after a riding accident, and his life is in disarray. Rob's parents spend most of their time at his sister's bedside, and his best friend is afraid to talk to Rob about Chloe. To distract himself, Rob takes a job working at a secret archaeological site, where workers have uncovered a


It's been three months since Rob's younger sister, Chloe, fell into a coma after a riding accident, and his life is in disarray. Rob's parents spend most of their time at his sister's bedside, and his best friend is afraid to talk to Rob about Chloe. To distract himself, Rob takes a job working at a secret archaeological site, where workers have uncovered a mystical ring of black timbers. At its center an ancient tree is buried upside down in the earth—a tree with the power to transport Rob to the Unworld, where Chloe lives in a forest of enchanting dreams, trapped between life and death.

Catherine Fisher has combined a fascinating exploration of myth with a modern quest for understanding. Where is the land of the imagination? And if we found our way there, would we ever want to come back?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fisher (The Oracle Betrayed) infuses her haunting tale with the Celtic legend of Taliesin and Ceridwin. The story opens in Avebury near Stonehenge, where young Chloe has been in a coma for three months, the victim of a horseback riding accident. Her older brother, Rob, the principal protagonist, is goofing off with a friend in a field when he stumbles upon a pagan ritual in progress. Rob gets caught up in the rite, and ends up pulling a man named Vetch from a dark ditch in the ground. Vetch speaks in ominous tones: "The word is the reason I've come... the time and the place and the danger.... The word you want is... Darkhenge." Rob's skills as an artist land him a job working on the group's archaeological dig, which in time uncovers a mysterious tree that is growing upside-down, into the earth, planted 4,000 years ago as "an axis, a pole linking this place and the Unworld." Vetch turns out to be much more powerful than Rob first imagined; a journey to the Unworld below leads to a confrontation with the King that holds Chloe's psyche captive-and not, it seems, entirely against her will. Fisher's story is just dark enough to stand out from the fantasy pack, and positive and exciting enough that it may well send readers scrambling for other texts on Celtic legends. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Rob sees the world through artist's eyes: His talent and hard work mean that his portfolio for college admission is almost complete. But the world seems to have paused for his family, as his younger sister, Chloe, lies in a coma after a riding accident near Avebury, England, and its ancient stone circles. Rob and his friend, Dan, are used to seeing strange people attracted to the mystical power of the stones, but when a man named Vetch appears, he urges Rob to join a nearby archeological dig of an even more ancient circle, telling Rob that it holds the key to rescuing Chloe. Meanwhile Chloe seems drawn into the labyrinth of Unworld, a fairytale kingdom gone wrong, described by Vetch as "a wood of dreams, a landscape of sinew and stone . . . the Imagination." Manifesting Chloe's jealousy of her brother, Unworld awaits Rob, Vetch, and a woman Rob knows as the archeologist Clare. As Rob struggles in Unworld, Father Mac, a close family friend, also struggles to understand what Chloe has created. But only Chloe can make the final choice to pull out of Unworld. Junior and senior high school fans of psychological fantasy, other titles by Fisher, or Holly Black's books will scoop this one up eagerly. A booktalk should include setting background on Avebury, including pictures of its ancient stone rings, older but not as famous as Stonehenge twenty miles south. The narrative style that switches between Chloe's unconscious mind, Rob's story, and Father Mac's worries might confuse some readers, especially in the opening chapters, but the tension and appealing characters make it an enveloping page-turner for fantasy readers. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses;Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, HarperCollins, 352p., and PLB Ages 12 to 18.
—Mary Ann Darby
KLIATT - Lesley Farmer
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, March 2006: Rob is a budding artist who is seeking a job to help pay for the expenses of maintaining his younger sister Cora, who is in a coma. Their actress mother has not taken any role because she doesn't want to leave Cora, and the father is ineffectual. Mac the priest serves as their moral guardian. When Rob encounters a hippie-looking group, he hears about an archaeological dig, and a job as a documenting illustrator. He also meets two competing figures, a druidic character named Vetch and the aggressive dig director Clare, who each want the wooden henge for their own purposes. Rob and Vetch realize that Cora is trapped in the underworld of the wooden henge. Can she be saved; or does she even want to be saved? Especially since Cora's own gift of writing was overlooked by the family, the underworld can be appealing. Words that are not spoken, art that does not see: these are the underlying issues confronting the siblings. Their inner development makes this rather dark story compelling.
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Drawing from the ancient Celtic tale of Taliesin and Ceridwen, Fisher crafts a complex and frightening story of family love and jealousy. Rob, an artist of some considerable talent, sees his family disintegrating as his younger sister lies in a coma. Looking for an outlet for both his time and talent, he takes a job with a local archaeological dig near his home in Avebury, England, where a new and mysterious henge has been discovered. Having spent his life surrounded by the mythology of stone circles, Rob initially pays little attention to the bizarre events that surround the dig until he realizes that this new revelation and the mystifying people attracted to it are somehow related to his sister. The novel plays out in a terrifying race against time and primordial evil to free Chloe from the grip of a malevolent force of her own making. While steeped in early myth and fantasy, this is an exploration of the responsibility of families to speak honestly to one another. The venerable tale meshes with Rob and Chloe's interactions, and readers unfamiliar with the old story will nevertheless be swept up in the mystery and dark magic. Changing perspectives make this a challenging read, but one that is ultimately very satisfying.-Sharon Grover, Arlington County Department of Libraries, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A complex sibling relationship journeys into an intricate world of old fables and psychology. Rob and his parents have been "like hollow people" for the last three months, ever since "cheeky, stroppy Chloe," Rob's younger sister, went into a coma from a riding accident. Rob takes a job documenting a local archaeological dig by drawing it. An ancient henge leads downward into the Unworld, which is both a manifestation of Chloe's comatose brain synapses and a very real kingdom of tales where Chloe is held captive. Most of the narration sticks to Rob's third-person limited viewpoint, but brief flashes of Chloe's thoughts add brilliant potency. Chloe ventures deeper and deeper, from caer (ancient royal fort) to caer, all brimming with symbols from her real relationship with Rob, which-it turns out-was wrought with pain. The portrayal is delicate and poetic, the journey frightening, with suspense that builds as young, bitter Chloe decides whether or not to return to life. (Fantasy. YA)

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By Catherine Fisher

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Catherine Fisher
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060785840

Chapter One

The oaks shimmer, the stream runs cold.
Happy is he who sees the one that he loves.

The Book of Taliesin

The tree branched like a brain.

It was the same as the diagram in his biology textbook, a tangle of neurons and dendrites and synapses. It was what was in him now, working his eyes and fingers. So ingenious. So fragile.

He bent over the page, noticing how his shadow was ultramarine blue on the white cartridge paper; with the side of the pencil he shaded in the edge of the bough, feeling the soft fibers of carbon darken the grain. He marked a few quick cracks, then cross-hatched the hole in the trunk, rubbed splotches of lichen, enjoying the skill in his hands, the way drawing it made him and the tree one creature.

A drop of rain spatted on the page.

Rob looked up. His concentration snapped like a thread.

Clouds were looming in from the north. They were black and heavy; already he could see the leading edge as a gray smudge drifted over the miles of open downland, masking the low hump of Windmill Hill and its barrows. "It's raining," he said.

From the high grass a tinselly whisper of music rose and fell.

"Dan! We're going to get soaked."

A hand played air guitar toinaudible riffs.

Rob glanced around. There were a few thorn bushes to shelter under, but not much else. The white chalk track of the Ridgeway ran away on each side along the exposed crest of the downs. Below in the fields, acres of barley waved.

He kicked the sprawling figure; Daniel sat up, annoyed. "What?"

He said it too loud, the earphones deafening him. Rob reached over and tweaked them off. "Come on. I'm hungry. We're going."

"Right in the middle of the best bit." Dan turned the CD off and rubbed his numbed ears. "So where's the masterpiece?"

"Show you later. Come on."


"No. Avebury."

These days he never wanted to go home. It was Tuesday and Maria would be there, and she irritated him, filling the gloomy rooms with her cheery Italian chatter. They couldn't do without her, but he didn't have to be there to put up with it. He slid the sketchbook into the backpack and snapped the pencil tin shut.

The bikes were tangled together in the long grass. Dan tugged his front wheel out. "Three more lessons, max. No more bikes then, Robbie boy."

Rob grinned. "Sure." Danny had already taken the driving test twice. If he failed again his mother had said she wouldn't pay for any more lessons, and if he did pass she wouldn't let him near her car. So either way he was an optimist.

Rain was spitting. "Green Street?" Rob asked.

"Too far. The track under the barrows. Down to the lane."

Then he was gone, riding fast, the earphones jammed back in, speeding off to heavy metal. Rob stared after him, stricken. Dan had forgotten. In the three months since the accident, they had never gone down that track.

Or maybe he hadn't forgotten; maybe it was deliberate. Rob had to face the place sometime, and it was best to do it now, without thinking too much. He climbed on the bike and cycled, head down.

There were poppies in the fields, like something from Monet, splashes of red. Those on the grass near the track were chalk-whitened, powdered from passing trail bikes and the heavy clump of hikers' boots. Now big raindrops spatted beside them into the dust. All across the fields the golden crop bowed and shivered, as the approaching storm shredded its peace.

The Ridgeway was rutted, its dry hollows and tire tracks hardened into solid ledges; the bikes bumped and slewed through and over them. No one else was up here today; raising his head Rob could see the parking lot on Overton Hill was empty, and beyond it the trucks on the A4 roared down toward Silbury, their windshields glinting in the ominous light. All the wide downland seemed to cower under the gathering wind, and as the bikes turned into the barley and rattled down to the barrows, he breathed in the rapidly cooling air, its sweet mingled summer smells, the sourness of crusted horse dung, the spatter of insects.

Dan was well ahead. The track dropped beneath a trio of barrows, each darkly crowned with crowded copses of beech trees. As he rode under them, he saw the swell of the burial mounds, one side scraped raw where some kids had rigged a rope and dragged their feet in the white chalk. He was riding full into the wind now and the rain stung his face; he kept his head down, marveling how the weather on the downs could change so fast. Already the rain was pelting, each drop a hardness. The front of his T-shirt was soaked.

Dan was cycling recklessly. He hated getting wet and was careless about the rutted track, taking the bends with insolent speed. Rob was more careful. The backpack, jammed full of tins of pastels and a bulky sketch pad, bounced on his shoulders; he raced across the downs at a crazy angle, and there was no shelter from the horizontal storm until the overgrown hedgerow along the track down to Falkner's Circle.

The turn was too sharp. He skidded, chalk stinging out under his back wheel. The bike heeled over, hit a stone. Suddenly he was off balance, knew that nightmarish moment of going too far ever to be upright again, got his foot down, but the bike's weight shot from under him, and he went sprawling.

"Bloody hell!"

He picked himself up, kicked the bike, and looked at his hands. Chalk lumps rolled from indentations in his skin. One palm was grazed, its black smear filled with tiny beads of blood.


Excerpted from Darkhenge by Catherine Fisher Copyright © 2007 by Catherine Fisher. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Catherine Fisher's acclaimed works include Darkhenge, Snow-walker, and The Oracle Betrayed, which was a finalist for the Whitbread Children's Book Award. She lives in Newport, Wales.

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Darkhenge 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
katherineTX More than 1 year ago
I picked this book up in the Dublin Airport for the flight home, and I couldn't put it down. It transcends the usual limitations of Young Adult Fictions. It doesn't condescent to children and their level of awareness. Adults who read it will find themselves remembering how identifying with the protagonist. Like Philip Pullman's Dark Materials Series, Darkhenge also speaks to an adult audience.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
In Avebury, England, following a riding mishap, Chloe is hospitalized in a comatose state. Her parents are distraught visiting her frequently and forcing her older brother Rob see her at least once a week. Rob cares for his sibling and prays for her recovery, but is uneasy with the visits and unhappy with his parents¿ demands. He needs to escape so using his art talent he obtains work with Dr Kavanagh at ahighly secretive archeological dig of a prehistoric wooden circle, the media blitz would be catastrophic. --- Not long after starting his new job, Rob meets the shape-shifting Druid, Vetch who claims to have been alive when the wooden circle he calls DARKHENGE was created. He also tells the teen that his sister in incarcerated in another realm, the Unworld, where she also has a chance to become a queen. Vetch will provide Rob the key to enter and leave Unworld with his sister if the lad assists him with gaining entrance into the highly secured dig. --- DARKHENGE is a fantastic young adult fantasy that older fans will fully appreciate as much as the Potter crowd will enjoy the tale. Though Chloe is the key character, Rob holds the exciting story line together as he must make some difficult decisions starting with whether he should trust Vetch by breaking his employment vow and never slowing down unto the final confrontation that will shock the audience. Catherine Fisher provides a fabulous coming of age fantasy starring a wonderful hero. --- Harriet Klausner
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Rob's younger sister, Chloe, has been in a coma for three months. The prognosis is not good for her recovery. Rob is riddled with guilt over the fact that he has always come first in their parents' eyes. He also feels guilty that his thoughts turn to the wish that she would pass on to let everyone get on with their lives.

Then one evening he stumbles upon some New Ager-type people. They have entered a clearing outside his town and ask him for the secret word. He has no idea what they are talking about, and the only word that comes to mind is "Chloe." This is not the word they were seeking. Instead, another mysterious man enters the clearing and asks Rob for assistance. The group again seeks the magical word. This time, the mysterious man, Vetch, mutters "Darkhenge," the word that was requested.

With the entrance of Vetch, a journey begins for all involved. Vetch is from the Unworld and is trying to get back. Archeologists in Rob's town have uncovered the Darkhenge and are trying to destroy it. The unlikely group must band together to save the Darkhenge and return Vetch to his world. Vetch reveals to Rob that his sister, Chloe, is being held in the Unworld and he can help Rob return her to his world, if he helps Vetch return to Unworld.

But the quest is met with obstacles in our world and in Unworld. The quest will be challenging and dangerous in many ways. The most unexpected twist is that Chloe may not want to return to the world she knows.

DARKHENGE is an imaginative dark tale of magic and dual worlds. Each of the main characters has many demons they must face, both real and imagined. The story moves quickly to a satisfying ending. Ms. Fisher has a creative imagination that leaves the reader wanting to experience more of her work.