Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April Read-Along: Fire and Hemlock

There was a lot of interest in a Fire and Hemlock read-along during Diana Wynne Jones Month but, since it is being re-released this month (YAY!), I decided to wait to schedule it so that the book was easier to get. The release date is April 12 in the U.S. and I wanted to also work around Carl's Mistborn read-along and work with the Once Upon a Time Challenge and Dewey's Read-a-Thon on April 21. What a busy month!

I was thinking that we could start the reading on or around April 19th and start our discussion on Friday, April 27th (and likely continue it through that weekend). We're lucky to have a couple of Fire and Hemlock devotees that are planning to join in the discussion too! I'll probably be asking each participant for a question or discussion topic because I think this will work best if each participant can get opinions and thoughts on their own nagging questions. This is a book that leaves many readers a bit confused!

Since this is a re-read for me, I wanted to expand the experience a bit and hopefully have a more informed experience with F&H. Because the story is based on two Scottish folk tales--Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer--I plan on doing some preliminary reading during the first half of the month. If any of you would like to join me for that, please do! These are the books I got from the library --

Tam Lin by Susan Cooper (picture book)
Tam Lin by Jane Yolen (picture book)
Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
Stories from Scotland by Barbara Ker Wilson (Oxford Children's Myths and Legends series)
The Book of Ballads by Charles Vess

If you want to join in the read-along, simply leave a comment below. I'll have a list of participants below. If you want to discuss the book on Twitter before April 27th, use the hashtag #fireandhemlock. This is definitely a book that benefits from having reading buddies!


Preparing for an adventure,


  1. This is going to be so fun! I'm not sure I can squeeze in a reread of my own, but I'll be sure to drop in on the discussion. I think the preliminary reading will be very helpful, and I loooove Pamela Dean's Tam Lin.

  2. So dang excited about this read-along! I love me some Fire & Hemlock, and even though I've read it countless times I still have questions. Plus Tam Lin by Pamela Dean is my favorite book of all time. Count me in!

  3. I think I've read Pamela Dean's Tam Lin 4 or 5 times. I have (and love) the Yolen book, and while I've read the Cooper version, I'm not a big fan of Warwick Hutton as an illustrator and it's not my favorite.

    I have Child's Ballads, so I'll see what I can dig up in there, and I'll see what else I can get. It will be wonderful to discuss Fire & Hemlock with a bunch of fans!

  4. I'm in for the Fire & Hemlock readalong! I have my copy pre-ordered. Thanks for hosting this!

  5. Ana - Fantastic! We would love to have you in on it either way. :)

    Jenny - Wonderful! I'm glad to have you on board. I'm excited to finally read Tam Lin because it's a favorite for so many.

    Jean - I'm so glad that you're joining it! And it looks like I picked the right companion pieces. :)

    Celia - Yay! I'm glad I waited for the re-release!

  6. Goody goody goody good! I'm in like Flynn! V. curious to see what you make of the Pamela Dean -- it's a book I've become awfully fond of despite reservations (but no Fire and Hemlock of course).

  7. I'm going to aim to join in. I certainly plan to buy the ebook on the 12th and I hope to read with you all.

    Another Tam Lin telling I've always liked is by Joan D. Vinge and appears in the anthology Imaginary Lands edited by Robin McKinley. Unfortunately, it's out of print now, but libraries and second hand bookshops are always worth checking.

    (If you've never heard of the book and are a McKinley fan, I'll add that her contribution to it is a short story set in Damar.)

    I also recommend the Steeleye Span version of the Thomas the Rhymer ballad, as Fire and Hemlock uses aspects of both ballads as I recall. It shows up in the New Zealand iTunes store if that's on any help to anyone.

  8. Hey, guess what I just found? I went to see if I had the Robin McKinley book (I think I used to) and found "Thomas the Rhymer," by Ellen Kushner. I think it must have been from the same series as the Pamela Dean book--I tried to collect those. I have completely forgotten this book, so I'll read it.

  9. Jenny - Hooray! I'm so glad you're joining in! And I'm really excited to start reading all these books.

    Kerry - Great news! My library system happened to have one copy of Imaginary Lands in central storage so I put a hold on it. Yay! And I'll definitely listen to the ballad after I get familiar with the story. Thanks for all of the tips!

    Jean - Oh, that's awesome! And my library had that one too so I went ahead and put a hold on it. I'm not sure how many of all of these I will get through but I've never been as prepared for a read as I will be for F&H this time through!

  10. I just ordered my copy from the library so I should be able to participate, yay!

  11. I'll be dropping in to discuss, since I just finished reading this in March. Such a wonderful book. Perhaps I'll try reading one of the "Tam Lin" books before that date.

  12. Amanda - Great news! I'm glad I waited so that so many of us can read it together!

    Iris - Fantastic! I look forward to a good discussion with so many people involved. :)

  13. I got my ebook copy on Monday so I'll definitely try to join in. I have another book I'm hoping to read first, but we'll see what happens. We're visiting relatives for the school holidays, so socializing is cutting into my reading time.

  14. Kerry - Fantastic! I know how things just come up so I'll just be hoping things work out for you to read it with us this time. :)

  15. I've got an "I've started!" post up.


  16. Sorry, I thought the link would be clickable. Let me try again.

    Starting Fire and Hemlock

  17. Kerry - I think I'm starting it on Saturday. So excited!

  18. My theory on the 9 years instead of 7 thing is that it was to give Polly a better age range.

    If the story had to start at one funeral and end with the next death, then using 7 years would either have meant she was only 17 at the end, which made the hint of an adult relationship between her and Tom inappropriate, or she was 12 at the beginning, which was perhaps a bit old for the kind of enthusiastic imagination DWJ wanted her to show as the "making up" of things began.

    By making it 9 years instead, the age range of 10 to 19 for Polly works better.

    That's my guess anyway.

  19. I'm so sorry, I just posted my whole comment in the wrong thread. Kristen, are you able to move it for me, or should I type it out again.

  20. Kerry - I don't think I can move it. :P