Originally published in 1975. I really wish I had read this short novel as a kid. I still enjoyed reading it now, but I think it would have been one of my favorite books if I had read it at a younger age.
Although a YA novel, with a fun and fast-moving, adventurous tone, this book doesn't shy away from ‘heavier' emotional issues and political situations.
The feudal land of Dalemark is divided, and the South is extremely politically repressive. But people depend on traveling minstrels for not only entertainment but news and mail delivery – so entertainers have a more free rein than most. Moril has spent his whole life traveling and performing with his family from a horse-drawn cart, singing and playing the cwidder across the land.
But when his father is murdered by a group of richly-dressed men, his mother immediately chooses to return to the stable, well-to-do suitor that she left for a musician years before. Moril and his brother and sister, driven both by suspicions that their mother's new beau had something to do with the murder, and a lack of enthusiasm for a bourgeois lifestyle, take the cart and strike out on their own, agreeing to take the young man who had been their family's passenger to his destination in the North.
More trouble awaits than they had bargained on however, as secrets regarding an underground political movement are revealed, and the children realize that their life was not all the happy-go-lucky glamour that it seemed. Soon they're well in over their heads – which makes it convenient that Moril's inherited cwidder, reputed to have belonged to the legendary bard Osfameron, may have more-than-simply-musical powers.