Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Giant Under The Snow

John Gordon
Puffin Books

Three children find an ornate Celtic buckle. To them it is treasure, a fantastic find. They have no idea that it has awakened a giant who has lain at rest for centuries. Little do they know that an evil warlord and his Leathermen have also awaited this moment, this chance to wield their deadly power. In a chilling tale full of menace and suspense the final battle between good and evil must be fought. Beautifully written, subtle, and evocative, this story transcends age, transporting the reader into an intensely atmospheric world where the imagination knows no bounds.

I love my collection of Puffin (and similar) books mostly because of the stories that tell of a very different type of Britain where history and legends seep through into the present or a Britain that many authors have happily pulled the trigger on in order to watch it burn but also because of the utterly beautiful cover art of which this is one of my favourites but it's the story we're here to talk about so...

Three kids on a school field trip become embroiled in a battle to thwart the return of an evil warlord after one of the trio - the unusually named Jonquil - discovers an ancient belt buckle in a clump of trees that looks suspiciously like a giant hand.  Along with her two friends - the trusting boyfriend Bill and the sceptical frenemy 'Arf' - she is enlisted by the protector of the place and imbued with magic powers that will allow them to keep the buckle safe and away from those working to bring back the warlord - the grey and abhorrent 'Leathermen' - and whose magic will once again allow the Giant to be raised from the soil where it has lain since the warlords previous defeat.

There's some nicely creepy elements here, the sinewy 'Leathermen' being the standout, but the book does get more than a little silly once the three take to the skies.  As with the previous book I'd read by Gordon - 'The House on the Brink' - you are left with the feeling that he desperately wanted the landscape to feature intrinsically in the story - even to the point of animating it - but just doesn't seem able to imbue it with any real sense of character which is a shame.

What we have though is a fun and frantic romp of a story filled with kids zooming around performing feats of magical daring-do and destroying monsters from the dark past which is what I was hoping for when I plucked it off the shelf.


  1. I loved this sooo much as a kid. I had this copy too. I didn't read Alan Garner or Susan Cooper as a child, so this was my one representative of this type of story.

    1. Hello Lavalady (that was fun to type)
      i hope seeing this brought back some good memories.
      I was such a sci fi obsessed kid that i didn't read many of these books at all when i was young so i'm having great fun finding them now.

  2. crikey! seeing that cover illustration has transported me back to the late '70s. read this in junior school... then the tale haunted a day trip tobnorwich & the norfolk broads. imagined the dog following alongside the school bus. must now seek out a copy! (greetings from ceredigion (these days)).

    1. ha ha - happy to stimulate so many memories.

      if you'll excuse the blatant spamming - there is a copy for sale in the new (so new it's not finished yet) Wyrd Britain etsy shop.

  3. Thanks. just visited your 'shop'... like the window display!