Rereading: DROWNED AMMET by Diana Wynne Jones

Cover art by Geoff Taylor

The second book of the Dalemark Quartet takes place on the coast of southern Dalemark in the area known as Holand, which is very flat and somewhat like Holland. Mitt and his parents are farmers in the lowlands, and Mitt’s early life is happy, until events cause the tax collector to raise their taxes so high the family is forced to give up their land and move to the capital city, where they struggle to survive. Soon Mitt’s father disappears, and Mitt’s grudge against their ruler, Earl Hadd grows. Hadd’s own family doesn’t have things much better, life in the castle is fraught with conflict and fear, as he rules with an iron hand. His daughter Hildy and her brother Ynen take what joy they can in sailing on their pleasure boat in the harbor, but then even that is taken from them, as unrest causes Earl Hadd to shut them in the castle.

Holand’s traditions include a festival where the Earl must carry a straw replica of their god, Drowned Ammet, through town to the harbor, where it’s thrown into the sea, but after years of planning, Mitt and his friends plot to kill the Earl with a bomb, which Mitt will throw at him during the procession. Things go wrong, but the Earl is killed anyway by an unseen gunman. Mitt’s efforts to escape capture end with him hiding in a fancy pleasure boat at the dock, and soon Hildy and Ynen have also fled there from their minders, and set out to sea, not knowing Mitt is aboard until it’s too late. The voyage of the three through a massive storm changes everyone’s ideas, but even stranger things are to come.

I think this series is among Jones’s best work, and this one was an excellent reread. It kept surprising me, and in good ways. Recommended.

Drowned Ammet by Diana Wynne Jones

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