|Cart and Cwidder|
|Author||Diana Wynne Jones|
|UK Release Date||1975|
|US Release Date|
|Series||The Dalemark Quartet|
|Followed by||Drowned Ammet|
The first published of the four volumes in the Dalemark Quartet, this novel takes place after The Spellcoats and Drowned Ammet. All four novels interrelate, and all are clarified and at least partly resolved in the final volume, The Crown of Dalemark, which takes place partly in the timeframe of this novel and partly in Dalemark's present time. The "cwidder" mentioned in the title refers to a type of stringed musical instrument, similar to a lute, which the singers use to accompany their performances.
Cart and Cwidder begins in the middle of a war between North and South Dalemark. It follows the family of an itinerant musician, Clennen Mendakersson, and his wife Lenina Thornsdaughter. They have three children, and the whole family participates in the musical performances that they put on in town after town as they travel round Dalemark in a small brightly painted cart. Their smart and dependable horse Barangarolob (known as Olob) is an ally, as he senses danger when it's near, and can always be trusted to sniff out the best camping spots for spending the night.
For some initially unknown reason, this northern family is traveling through the South during the novel. They have to take care what they say in public, since the earls who rule the South are notoriously touchy. After performing at one town, Clennen tells the others that they'll be picking up a traveler soon who will accompany them to the North. That traveler -- Kialan, by name -- shows up by the side of the road and the two youngest children, Brid and Moril, soon learn to dislike him.
But everything is thrown into disorder when armed men show up near their campsite one morning, and within minutes, Clennen has been killed. This changes all their plans and begins the events that drive the rest of the story.