Tuesday, May 13, 2008


“If you feel a little strange when you gaze up at the full moon …
If you sense some greater power when you stand on a hilltop
With the skies arching above you …
If you’re touched by the presence of something unseen
When walking in the woods …
Then ... enter the world of Stonewylde …”


You may have noticed the new banner at the top right side of my blog. It is a portal to the website for the “Stonewylde” series of books, with which I am totally enraptured at the moment.

If you click on the banner, you’ll see this description, which begins to explain the allure of the Stonewylde books: “Stonewylde is somewhere that lives in our imagination. A beautiful Dorset estate hidden away in the depths of rural England, where the community live in harmony with nature. Stonewylde is the perfect place, a place where you can escape to in your dreams.

Stonewylde is a real entity, an enclosed sanctuary where nature is unharmed and undamaged by modern exploitation. It's a place of standing stones and earth energy, an idyllic refuge from the stress of ordinary life.

But although the place may be perfect, human nature never is. Behind the organic farming, rural crafts, colorful festivals and pagan ceremonies, there's a darker more sinister side to Stonewylde. It's a place of secrets and mystery, where menace stalks in the shadows. “

There’s no doubt that Stonewylde itself is a main character in the books. It’s been described as an alternative community, a walled enclave for a religious sect and a modern feudal utopia. It is a place of pastoral delights and beautiful scenery, dotted with standing circles, dolmens and a hilltop where hares cavort each full moon.

With its green magic, earth energy and moon energy, Stonewylde is a place that strongly calls to me. The descriptions of "the old ways” of village life and farming, and the celebrations of the wheel of the year, are enchanting, and make me yearn to have experienced the Dorset of the past.

I wrote earlier that the website's description only begins to explain Stonewylde's allure. It’s Berry’s powerful storytelling skills and the fully-fleshed-out characters that KEEP me so enthralled.

The three main characters, Magus, Sylvie and Yul, are especially well-drawn. The first book begins with Sylvie, age 15, and her mother coming to Stonewylde from The Outside, Sylvie having the unmistakable, silvery-haired looks of the Hallfolk, the aristocrats of Stonewylde.

I don’t think I’m revealing too much when I say that Sylvie is what Stonewylde folk call “moongazy". She feels a deep urge to sing and dance with the hares on Hare Hill in honor of the moon goddess.

Yul is one of the village youth, who suffers greatly at the hands of his cruel father and the Magus. Sol, the Magus, rules Stonewylde with a benign hand. Or does he? The village folk call him Magus, believing it means ruler. But magus also means wise man, and, more tellingly, magician, and Sol is no stranger to deception.

After having finished the first two books (“Magus of Stonewylde” and “Moondance of Stonewylde”), I begin to sense unrest among the simple village folk who live in complete service to the Hallfolk. Will there be a rebellion? Will Sylvie and Yul’s love persevere? (Yes, it’s a love story too!) Who will prevail in their struggle for dominance: The all-powerful Magus or Yul, the seemingly simple woodsman who, it is suggested, is destined for bigger things.

I was turned on to the Stonewylde books (there are three so far) by a British blogger. Written by former Dorset resident Kit Berry, they are very popular in Britain. They have been described as fantasy, but I would not give them such a narrow classification, especially since I don’t like the fantasy genre. I prefer “earth magic adventures”, as they are dubbed in the website.

Berry has encountered quite a few obstacles in her path to bring these novels to the public. She is self-published, and needs to recoup her costs each time before bringing out the next book. She also had difficulty getting her books into bookstores, although, in Britain at least, this is no longer a problem. And Berry has also persuaded booksellers that the Stonewylde books - deservedly - belong in the adult sections as well as with the teen books. (In fact, I think they're a little too mature for all but the oldest teens.)

Some people, especially in the United States, may be turned off by the clearly pagan aspects of the Stonewylde community. Since I am a Celt, I am open to learning all I can about “the old ways”. I, too, feel the pull of the full moon, although not as strongly as Sylvie.

Actually, I (and I hope potential readers will) consider reading the Stonewylde books as being no different than reading about strange – to me - foreign practices in a couple of other excellent books I read lately (“A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini and “Bliss” by O. G. Livanelli).

In the end, when a story is as good as the Stonewylde books, it doesn’t matter how strange the landscape.

I really, really want to read the third book, “Solstice at Stonewylde”. The first two books have taken me through a number of pagan holidays, each of which has been marked by very dramatic events. I can’t wait to see what the Winter Solstice brings!

But I also want to put off starting it in order to savor the experience! There will eventually be five novels in the series, but the publication date of the fourth book is unknown. I know of only one source for the Stonewylde books in the U.S.: Amazon.com.

Kit Berry also has a personal blog. To check it out, go to: http://www.moongazygirl.blogspot.com/.


Added 5/14:

I will draw for the book on Tuesday, May 20, so please be sure to enter the drawing before then. I have learned that some people cannot click on the banner. To get to the website, go to www.stonewylde.com. I also learned of a new source of the books for American and Canadian readers. Go to www.magusbooks.com.

Kit Berry, author of the Stonewylde books


Colleen - the AmAzINg Mrs. B said...

Oh - am I the first to post?? Well, good for me!
The book sound enchanting - like a dream where, if awakened, you want to return to just where you left off. I must look into this further.
Thanks for sharing what you are reading and giving recommendations.

Janet said...

Wow! These sound amazing....and I'm not a huge fan of fantasy either. But I do like a good solid story with some depth to it and from what you've described I think I'd love this series. I have an interest in the "old ways" too and I love your "earth magic adventures" descriptiojn.

Annie Jeffries said...

Hi Julie. What an interesting series. I think it will be the perfect fit after I finish Harry Potter. I'm starting Book Five soon. Hugs, Annie

Val said...

Oh HOW can I have missed this series? I cant believe it. Living in Dorset and these things being close to my heart?

Ive gone straight into the library website and requested the first one (the local history section has a reference copy of all three for future generations to see, you'll be glad to know!)

- and I empathise with the contradictory impulses to read and have your fill of the next book, but savouring the excitement of it yet to read.

Patty said...

Oh my goodness, I already know I NEED those books, not want but NEED lol. I love the thought of reading of these adventures and what happens. You have done a great job describing the books!!
Can you buy them at the book store or do you have to order? I wasn't clear on that part. My computer wouldn't allow the popups so I couldn't get to the site.

Sometimes It's Good said...

OK, you have me wanting to read this series. I'm going to have to go to Amazon very soon.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm...sounds mesmerizing! Dancing under the moon has always sounded like pure bliss to me. Thanks for introducing this new (to me) author!

Anonymous said...

I would love to have a copy of the book. These kinds of books are right up my alley, and I've often dreamed of founding an intentional community along the lines you talk about in your review. I'm a huge fantasy fan! Whether or not I win, I'll be searching the used book stores for a copy.

couragetocreatewriteandlove said...

you are too generous! specially with me so please do not count me in this time. i am heading right now to learn more about the author and the books, yes!!!
p.s. love you!!!

Leanne said...

Hi Julie, I am so chuffed you liked the books after I recommended them to you, they are wonderful, and I am having withdrawal symptoms waiting for book 4!!

Your review is great, well done! Kit will be chuffed!

Leanne X

gma said...

Julie....OOOOhhhh these books sound good. Right up my alley too!Put me in the draw.
I'd love to get lost in Stonewylde ...it's calling me.

Lila Rostenberg said...

These sound like a threshold to a wonderful world. Can't go there right now...maybe later!!!!

Unknown said...

Wow, Julie, I can't believe you are approaching your 300th post! Come to think of it, I don't think that I am far from it myself... I will be celebrating my one-year anniversary shortly. Time is a vapor.

Although I'm not into the pagan aspect, I am very intrigued by the deep connection to the earth; the resourcefulness and creative use of it's elements. In my teens, I read countless books about Native American tribes because I so admired their respect for nature and the boundless ways they incorporated it into their lives.

I think we all have a perfect place in our heads and hearts. It's a cozy little escape for those occasions when the world disappoints us.

Nice post, Julie. As usual, your writing is wonderful!


Tea said...

Oh boy.....new books to look for !!!
As a huge fan of Phil Rickman, Stonewylde sounds right up my alley!

Too late for your draw but I`m for sure going to write this author down for next trip to Chapters :)


Julie said...

Hi, Tea,

You're not too late for the drawing. You're in it!

Mary said...

Julie - I've not heard of this author and her books but they sound extremely interesting, especially as it's set in Dorset which the the county next to my home in Devon. And........"the old ways", that's the title of my favorite Loreena McKennitt song, I can play it over and over and never grow tired of it!

Please add my name to the drawing - know I will enjoy the book if I win! Hope you have entered my little giveaway for my 300th - tonight it closes, winner picked in the morning - hey girl, we must be running (let's make that race-walking!) neck and neck.

Hope life is good - I've been so busy with the garden and house. The days are just fleeting by much too quickly.

Naturegirl said...

Julie I first thought of our sweet
~"Daisy"~ when I read the MOONDANCE title!A book that I am sure she would have read. I love the idea of " an enclosed sanctuary where nature is unharmed and undamaged by modern exploitation." sigh if only..so perhaps by reading this book I can imagine! sigh!
WOW!! your 300th post!! We are all blessed that you decided to take up blogging! Congratulations kind lady! hugs NG

Bimbimbie said...

Hi Julie you've sparked an interest in seeking out these books. Those Hares have worked their magic over me. Rainbow smiles and hugs x *!*

Kim Campbell said...

I subscribe to her newsletter! I have been wanting to read these for awhile. Oh, I hope I win!!!

smilnsigh said...

WOW!!! Need I say more? :-)

I will keep this, in reserve, so to speak. I'm still into Stephenie Meyer's books, and I don't 'mix' well. I'm not one to be able to keep diff story lines in my head, at once. But oh wow!!!!!!!! Does this ever sound like my cup of tea. :-)

Did I ever tell you I tried Earth Magic, with my 500 year old hunk of wood... from a place in Europe? :-) My teacher was a young man {Net friend} in Dublin Ireland.

{Who is being attacked by a mosquito at present. :-( Drew could rid a home of spiders. Wonder if I could work on mosquitoes???? Yikes!}

An Gàidheal Pàganach said...

Hey, what d'ya know, another Stonewylde fan. I recommend the series to as many people as possible. And, my nerves are on edge waiting for Shadows at Stonewylde (rumoured to be the title for Book 4).

I love your review, too. So eloquent.