FORGOTTEN BOOK: RED MOON AND BLACK MOUNTAIN by Joy Chant, 1970
This is the 104th in my series of Forgotten Books.
This week’s book appears to have been forgotten by a large part of the reading public. I remember, back in the day, awaiting the arrival of this title from the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, which, along with the Newcastle Fantasy series, was the single best primer of fantasy work assembled.
Lin Carter was the editor of the BAF series which reprinted fantasies by such writers as William Morris, George MacDonald, ER Eddison, Poul Anderson, James Branch Cabell, F. Marion Crawford, and many more. He rarely did original titles for the series, because there was not a lot of new fantasy happening at that time. Hard to believe, I know. But he did find work by Katherine Kurtz (the first two Deryni books) and Sanders Anne Laubenthal (EXCALIBUR) and RED MOON AND BLACK MOUNTAIN which had just been published in England by George Allen and Unwin, who were Tolkien’s publishers.
It was a fantastic read! And I waited for more work by Joy Chant, who was a children’s librarian in Wales. It was seven long years before the next book THE GREY MANE OF MORNING and then six more years for WHEN VOIHA WAKES. It has now been 29 years since her last novel.
I looked for a British hardcover first edition of this book for years and never saw one for saw in person or in catalogues. I had finally given up on it when a copy appeared on eBay this last year. I was prepared to spend real money for it bit, since nobody knew anything about the writer, etc, I got the book for about £1 plus shipping. After conversion fees, etc, I spent about $10. I got the book and awaited the transport back to this wonderful world and writer.
The book follows three children – Oliver, Nicholas and Penelope (Penny) Powell. Oliver is the oldest and Penny the youngest. One day as they were out riding their bicycles, they were observed by someone who blew a magic pipe and transported them from England to Kendrinh. But they do not arrive together. Oliver lands in a vast plain where he is found by the Khentorei, the horsemen of the plains. Nicholas and Penny land on Black Mountain where they are found by the Harani and the Star Princess In’serinna.
The world is on the brink of disaster. The red moon is about rise over Black Mountain and the eagles are about to war. The white eagles rise to meet the black eagles in an epic battle. The white dominates, though barely. This bodes ill as it shows the power of the mad sorcerer Fendarl has increased to the point where he will again try to conquer the world.
Mere sorcery and sword arms will not be able to defeat him and his armies. It will take three British children and their faith to do it.
This sounds relatively hokey and like most modern fantasy but it really works. The battle of the eagles is splendid. The fights on the plains and in the mountains are well described. The children each have different roles to play and people to care for.
Among the wildest parts of the novel are the idea that, though they vanished at the same time, Oliver is in the land longer than Penny and Nicholas. He has the hardest part to play as he must transform from English schoolboy to mighty warrior and the leader of his tribe. He falls in love but cannot attach himself to anyone as it is foretold early on that he will return home, if he does not die first.
I do not want to spoil this for you. It is very much worth your while to search out. There were numerous editions, including a book club hardcover with a Frank Frazetta dust jacket as well as a US trade edition and many paperback editions. All editions seem to be reasonably prices, even the UK hardcover first, which, like me, you can own. Try them and be amazed. Another writer might have made a trilogy or more and thousands of pages out of this material. As it is, it is short, compact and incredibly good.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.