Celandine by Steve Augarde Robin: Celandine is the second novel of the Touchstone Trilogy. It follows The Various, but is actually set before and during the First World War, some 90 years earlier. Like the first novel, it opens with an intriguing episode that does not occur until a good way into the main book.

Celandine, who lives at the farm where Midge later stays, first sees one of the Various at a picnic when she is ten—Fin, a witless young Naiad, who lets his desire for cake overcome his fear of the outside world. She also catches a glimpse of an anxious bearded little man—Fin’s father, as she rightly deduces. She sees none of them again until a few years later when distressed by the death of her horse, she runs off onto the hillside. There she meets Fin again and he, seemingly unaware that she is one of the dreaded Gorji, leads her through a wickerwork tunnel into the heart of the forest, to the consternation of his tribe. Celandine is impressed with the little people: “They were breathtaking. As ordinary as sparrows, yet unimaginably strange”. She realizes she has stumbled into the hidden world so often whispered about, “though it seemed more a world of hardship than of miracles.”

When she returns again and again, the Various try studiously ignoring her, until one of the Tinklers wonders about the book she is reading. She reads to them at first, and finally teaches them to read for themselves, and later to sing also. But only the cave-dwellers benefit, while the Naiad and the Wisp continue to pretend she is not there. After a while, the Tinklers and Troggles come to regard Celandine as a true friend.

And what of the Ickri? The winged hunters who dominate the Various in the first book are in this volume travelling down from the chilly north in search of the Orbis. Their wise king Avlon has a dream: “We shall no longer content ourselves with hiding in the forests like mice… We are heir to powers that shall carry us across the span of ages and return us to the great kingdom of Elysse where we belong. … Then we shall live as our fathers lived, free to journey the paths of the heavens, true travellers once again.” His daughter Una uses the Touchstone to guide them on the long journey to the forest on the hill, but when they reach their goal the Orbis is nowhere to be found.

The story continues many years later in Winter Wood.

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