The people of Holand in South Dalemark are bitterly oppressed by the tyrannical earl Hadd. Informers, secret police, and cruel rent-collectors terrorize the countryside, and Mitt has grown up with more than enough reasons for joining the freedom fighters.
When his protest against the tyrannical government fails, a young boy escapes, with two other children, to the mysterious Holy Islands where they learn the identity and the power of two folk figures celebrated by their countrymen.
About the Author
In a career spanning four decades, award-winning author Diana Wynne Jones (1934‒2011) wrote more than forty books of fantasy for young readers. Characterized by magic, multiple universes, witches and wizards—and a charismatic nine-lived enchanter—her books are filled with unlimited imagination, dazzling plots, and an effervescent sense of humor that earned her legendary status in the world of fantasy.
Read an Excerpt
People may wonder how Mitt came to join in the Holand Sea Festival, carrying a bomb, and what he thought he was doing. Mitt wondered himself by the end.
Mitt was born the day of the Holand Sea Festival, and he was called Alhammitt after his father. Perhaps the first sound Mitt heard as he burst bawling into the world was his parents laughing about both these things.
"Well, he took his time," said Mitt's father, "and chose his day all right. What does this make him? A man of straw, born to be drowned?"
Milda, Mitt's mother, laughed heartily at this, because the Sea Festival was something of a joke. On that day, every autumn, Hadd, the Earl of Holand, was required by tradition to dress up in outlandish clothes and walk in a procession down to the harbor carrying a life-size dummy made of plaited wheat. The dummy was known as Poor Old Ammet. One of Hadd's sons walked after him carrying Poor Old Ammet's wife, who was made entirely of fruit, and her name was Libby Beer. The procession that went with them was both noisy and peculiar. When they reached the harbor, they said traditional words and then threw both dummies into the sea. Nobody knew why this was done. To most people in Holand the ceremony was just an excuse to have a holiday, eat sweets, and get drunk. On the other hand, everyone would have thought it horribly unlucky not to have held the Sea Festival.
So Milda, even though she was laughing until her dimple was creased out of existence, bent over the new baby and said, "Well, I think it's a lucky birthday to have had. He'll grow up a real free soul, Just like you you wait! That's why I'm calling him after you."
"Thenhe'll be common as dirt," said Mitt's father. "Just like me. You go into town and shout 'Alhammitt' in the street, and half Holand will come to you." And they both laughed at the thought of the common name they were giving their baby.
Mitt's early memories were full of his parents' laughter. They were very happy. They had the good luck to rent a smallholding on the Earl's land in what was known as the New Flate, only ten miles from the port of Holand. It had been reclaimed from sea marsh by Earl Hadd's grandfather and grew lush emerald grass, big vegetables, and corn in narrow yellow stripes between the dikes. Dike End holding was so fertile and the market of Holand so near that Mitt's parents had plenty to live on. Though Earl Hadd was said to be the hardest man in Dalemark, and other farmers in the Flate were always being turned out of doors for not paying their rent, Mitt's parents always had just enough money to go round. They laughed. Mitt grew up running carelessly along the paths between the crops and the dikes. It never occurred to anyone that he could drown. When he was two, he taught himself to swim by falling into a dike when his parents were busy. Since no one was there to help him, he had to help himself. He struggled to the bank and got out, and his clothes dried in the stiff breeze as he ran on.
The sound of that breeze was as much part of his early memories as his parents' laughter. Apart from the hill where Holand stood, the Flate was flat as a floor. The wind blew straight across from the sea. Sometimes it came storming in, laying the grass over, chopping the sky reflected in the dikes into gray Vs, and hurling the trees sideways so that their leaves showed white. But most days it simply blew, steadily and constantly, so that the dikes never stopped rippling and the leaves of the poplars and alders went rattkrattk up and down the banks. If the wheat was ripe, it rustled in the wind, stiffly, like straw in a mattress. The constant wind sighed in the grass and hummed in the chimney, and kept the sails of the big windmills always turning, creak-thump, creak-thump, to pump the water to the dikes or grind the flour. Mitt used to laugh at those windmills. It was the way their arms pawed the air.
Then one day, shortly after Mitt had taught himself how to swim, the wind suddenly dropped. It did that sometimes in early summer, but it was the first time in Mitt's life that he had known the Flate without wind. The sails of the windmills creaked and stood. The trees stopped moving. There was blue sky in the dikes, and trees upside down. Everything went quiet and unexpectedly warm. Above all, there was suddenly an extraordinary smell. Mitt could not think what was happening. He stood on the bank of the dike nearest the house with his ears tipped to the silence and his nose lifted to the smell. The smell was cow dung and peat and trampled grass, mixed with smoke from the chimney. But that was only in the foreground. Beyond that was the smell of fresh things growing-cow parsley, buttercups, a hint of may, and strongest of all, the heavenlike scent of willows budding. While, at the back of it, there and not there, so that Mitt almost missed it, was the faint boisterous bite of the distant sea.
Mitt was too young to think of it as smells, or to realize that the wind had simply stopped. He thought it was a place. It seemed to him that he had got an inkling of somewhere unspeakably beautiful, warm, and peaceful, and he wanted to go there. Yes, it was a land. It was not far off, just beyond somewhere, and it was Mitt's very own. He set off at once to find it while he still remembered the way....Drowned Ammet. Copyright © by Diana Jones. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is my second favorite book of the Dalemark Quartet, my favorite being book4: 'The Crown of Dalemark.' This is the first story featuring Alhammit (Mitt) Alhammitsson as one of the main characters. Mitt, born a country boy in the opressive south, finds himself and his mother livng in the big city of Holand, and Mitt must support them a very young age. His father neglects them and is soon presumed dead after a rebel attempt against the Earl goes horribly awry. Mitt joins a freedom fighter group to avenge his father's death but only gets himself into the deeper trouble and a bounty on his head. One thing leads to another and Mitt finds himself sailing North in the pleasure boat of non other than the Earl's grandchildren(the other main characters) Hildy, and Ynen. The trio bands together, after a rather shaky start, to out-thwart the southern earls and save their own lives from the elements of the sea. Adventure, magic, humor, and another hijacking insues. A must read for any of Jones' fans. P.S. In order to read the last book of the series you must read this one and 'The Spellcoats' to understand the conclusion. However 'Cart and Cwidder' is good too!!
When I first read the chronicles of Chrestomanci, I fell in love with Dianas work. This book, however. was better than even I could have thought.