Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains

The Truth is a Cave in the Black MountainsThe Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This small book began life as a short story, and then became part of a performance piece where Neil read it accompanied by music and pictures. The pictures and story are captured here as a lovely illustrated book - too bad the music couldn't be included on CD!

The story is based on a legend from the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland. In the legend, there is a cave that contains gold that anyone may take, but each time you leave the cave you become 'more evil.' Gaiman uses this story as the main driver of the plot, but adds a larger narrative. The story is about a dwarf who lives in the Scottish lowlands. We learn a bit of his life, that he is married with children, and that he lost his daughter many years ago. The dwarf is on a quest to the cave to get some of the gold, but he doesn't know where it is, so he enlists the help of another man who went there as a teenager and successfully returned with gold.

The story is full of murder and intrigue, and Gaiman tells it masterfully, as is to be expected. The phrasing of the narrative is such that one can almost hear the Scottish brogue. It feels like a story told around a campfire.

The illustrations, by Eddie Campbell, are done mostly in lovely greens, blacks and grays, evoking the landscape of Scotland quite nicely. (I know, I've been there, and also visited the Isle of Skye.) I first read the story in another collection, sans illustrations. Reading it again, this time with the images, helped to give more texture to the words and to create the slightly fantastical atmosphere. The story is haunting, as are the illustrations.

Any fan of Neil Gaiman will eat this up, but I'd also recommend it to those who like Scotland. This story feels as if it sprang from the very rocks and heather of the Scottish lands.

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