“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/.
IN HONOR OF MY 300th POST, COMING VERY SOON, I AM GIVING AWAY A NEW COPY OF THE FIRST BOOK IN THE STONEWYLDE SERIES. JUST POST A COMMENT TELLING ME WHY YOU THINK YOU'D LIKE THE BOOK, AND I WILL DRAW A NAME FROM THE ENTRIES.
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.