Darkhenge by Catherine Fisher
The Plot: Rob is a talented artist. Right now, he's using his art as an escape from home. Home has been little more than a house he lives in, ever since his younger sister, Chloe, was in a riding accident. For months, she's been in a coma. Rob's talent brings him a job, at an archaeological site that has found something truly unique: an ancient upside down tree.
What is the connection to Chloe? And who is the mysterious man, who seemed to appear out of nowhere, and what is his connection to all of this?
The Good: Fisher makes use of many myths and legends: including Taliesin and Ceridwen, Lady Guest's Mabinogi, The Battle of the Trees, The White Goddess by Robert Graves, Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman by John Matthews. You don't need to have read these works or to be familiar with these works to enjoy Darkhenge; but it does give additional depth, and it's fun to be able to recognize Fisher's source material and to see how she uses it. This isn't a retelling; more along the lines of updating and re-imagining.
Rob is an artist; Chloe, it turns out, was an aspiring writing, overshadowed by her older brother. The use of language, the power of language, and the gift of language, of the written word and of story -- and the power of story -- are explored.
The "real" and the "mystical" overlap; what is the source of Chloe's coma? Can it be fixed?
When we make up a story, can it become real -- more real than the world we live in? And if we found a way into that story, would we want to leave?
This story takes place in Avebury, England, and as I've mentioned earlier, I love books set in the UK. Bonus points that Avebury is a real place, showing that Fisher was careful and thoughtful in choosing her setting.
I like Rob's family and friends; they are real, complex, people, from his best friend to his actress mother.
Finally, I loved the archaeology. I would have loved to have been an archaeologist, except I stink at languages, and that would have been a problem. Instead, I watch -- and drool over -- Time Team. Hey, did you know there were Time Team books?