Fourth Estate, £16.99 Order at a discount from the Independent Online Shop

Boneland, By Alan Garner

After 50 years, a unique trilogy of novels finally reaches its mind- expanding final

Things have not gone well for Colin and Susan since they set about seeing off encroaching forces of evil, first in Alan Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960) and then The Moon of Gomrath (1963). Nearly 50 years later – surely the longest time ever taken to complete a trilogy? – they turn up again in Boneland. Or at least Colin does, now a wild-haired, mad Professor of Astronomy. Susan, always more in touch with hidden powers, has long been taken by the Pleiades into another world when a sacrifice was needed to save the normal order of the universe. Colin, bereft, can only sense her and occasionally catch the odd word snatched from the ether or communicated during a dream.

It's a fairly preposterous plot, then, not made any simpler by the existence of a parallel story involving a prehistoric shaman known as the Watcher, also charged with having to preserve the world from destruction. Yet it never does to underestimate Garner, a writer with the ability to make familiar words sing off the page as if part of a new poetic language. Each new book is an adventure into previously uncharted territories.

Too much sustained fine writing can also feel remorseless. Garner knows this, but whenever he goes into less exalted mode, Boneland becomes unstuck. In need of treatment away from his recurrent visions, Colin seeks the help of Meg, described as a psychiatrist but coming over as someone more in the Rolf Harris school of relentless facetiousness. Colin's Asperger-type lecturettes to her on quantum physics, time, maths and anything else he can make suitably abstruse also become trying.

Young readers warmed to Garner's 1967 masterpiece The Owl Service because they could sense the urgency of the story, whatever its ambiguities. Boneland however is not in any sense a children's book. A weeping middle-aged man who wears a green silk hood is a far cry from fresh young Colin. But then, describing what sort of adults child characters have grown into is always tricky – who could forgive RM Ballantyne for turning the charming young adventurers of The Coral Island into the cold-hearted moustachioed killers of The Gorilla Hunters?

Even so, at 149 pages, this novel packs in an enormous amount and invites re-reading. Set in the Cheshire hills around Alderley Edge, where the author has always lived, it has as its real heroes the rocky landscapes that have their own stories to tell. They have found their ideal interpreter. Garner ranges through history, endowing each cleft and protuberance with its own role in a cosmic struggle between light and dark.

True, the story that emerges is often obscure and over-the-top. But if it is the manner of their telling that ultimately proves to have the greatest worth for their audiences, then this novel should live on after more conventional fare has long fallen by the wayside.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor