||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (March 2010)|
|Author||Diana Wynne Jones|
|Cover artist||Peter Whiteman|
|Genre||Fantasy, High Fantasy, Children's Literature|
|Preceded by||Cart and Cwidder|
|Followed by||The Spellcoats|
The book begins with the birth of Alhammit Alhammitson, or Mitt, in South Dalemark, near a seaport called Holand. When Mitt is a young child, his family are evicted from their farm when the rent is doubled by Earl Hadd, the cruel and tyrannical ruler of South Dalemark. The entire family is forced to move to an unpleasant tenement in the city of Holand, where Mitt's father joins the Free Holanders, a resistance against Earl Hadd. However, after a raid on a warehouse which goes fatally wrong, Mitt's father disappears, most likely killed by the soldiers.
Mitt and his mother Milda are convinced that three of the elder Free Holanders, Siriol, Dideo and Ham, betrayed the younger members to the Earls soldiers because they were scared of the consequences of raiding the warehouse. Mitt is determined to take revenge on them for causing his father's death, and to do this, he joins the Free Holanders, hoping to bring them down from within. He ends up working on a fishing boat with Siriol out of Holand harbor. Milda, meanwhile, marries Hobin, a well-off gunsmith.
Mitt plans to take revenge on the Free Holanders by assassinating Earl Hadd with a homemade bomb during the annual Sea Festival, then letting himself be caught and, in turn, betraying the Free Holanders. Mitt's attempt fails miserably, when the Earl's youngest son, Navis, kicks away the bomb that Mitt planted at the Earl's feet, but the Earl is killed anyway by a sniper with a long-range gun, shooting from one of the many boats in the harbor.
Watching the festival are Navis's children, Ynen and Hildrida (Hildy). Hildy is furious with her father, since he had allowed her to be betrothed to Lithar, Lord of the Holy Islands, whom she has never met. After the assassination, she asks the new Earl, Harl, to break off her engagement, but he refuses. To get back at them, she and Ynen decide to make it look as if they'd run away and gone for a sail on her new boat, the Wind's Road.
Having been seen and recognized during the Earl's assassination, Mitt is forced to flee for his life. He hides on a magnificent boat—the very same one that Ynen and Hildy are running away on. They take the ship out of Holand harbor, with Mitt stowing away beneath deck, and when they are sufficiently far out to sea, Mitt shows himself, and demands that they take him to the North, where he can hide from the Earl's soldiers. Although the two are initially uncooperative, Mitt does his best to convince them that he is a rough, tough freedom fighter who will shoot them if he gets the chance; he partially succeeds, and Hildy and Ynen agree to take him North, if only because he has a gun, given to him by Hobin.
On the way North the three find, floating in the sea, the wheat figure of Poor Old Ammet, which was thrown in the sea during the Festival. This is considered good luck, and so they take him on board, lashing him to the prow as a figurehead. As well as this, Mitt has a small wax figure of Poor Old Ammet's consort, Libby Beer, which they attach to the stern.
That night they weather a dreadful autumn storm with the help the two demigods, Poor Old Ammet and Libby Beer. After the storm has passed, they come across a lifeboat, with one sailor aboard. After a few hours in the man's company, Mitt realizes that not only is the sailor the man who shot Earl Hadd from the harbor, he is also Mitt's own long-lost father.
Mitt's father, who turns out to be the actual betrayer of the Freedom Fighters and a truly bad person, forces them to take him to the Holy Islands. He plans to deliver Hildy to her would-be fiance, the Lord of the Holy Islands, the man she ran away from home to avoid marrying. Hildy is determined to stop this, but before they can do anything, they arrive in the Holy Islands.
Upon being told the name of the Wind's Road, the Holy Islanders say that a great one "will come on the wind's road with a great one before him and behind." Hildy and Ynen are taken prisoner, but Al forces Lithar, who is a childish imbecile, to have Mitt killed. The Holy Islanders refuse to harm him, so they maroon him on the uninhabited Holy Island. Hildy, meanwhile, meets with Libby Beer herself. Libby tells her that, if she wishes to return to the Holy Islands, she must trust Mitt. Hildy reluctantly agrees.
On Holy Island, Mitt encounters the two demigods in person and learns their secret names. When invoked in dire danger, the secret names produce cataclysmic effects that explain the folk names by which the two demigods are called on Holy Islands: the Earth Shaker for Poor Old Ammet and She Who Raised the Islands for Libby Beer. Meanwhile, Hildy and Ynen are re-united with Navis, who tells them that they were lucky to escape Holand alive, as Harl had been planning to kill them.
Al is about to shoot all of them when Mitt arrives. He invokes the lesser name of Poor Old Ammet, causing a great storm, during which they manage to escape.
From the Holy Islanders they acquire a boat to take them North. Before leaving, Mitt promises Poor Old Ammet that he will return to Holy Islands as a friend, not as a conqueror.
- Mitt Alhamittsson: A young boy who styles himself a Freedom Fighter, a murderer, and ultimately a fugitive from the law.
- Hildrida Navissdaughter: Granddaughter of Earl Hadd, betrothed at the age of nine to the Lord of Holy Islands as a political alliance. Her temper tantrums are a force of nature.
- Ynen Navisson: Grandson of Earl Hadd, an ardent boat lover and sailor. Ynen is the only one of Hadd's grandchildren who is genuinely nice.
- Navis Haddsson: The third and youngest son of Earl Hadd and the father of Ynen and Hildrida. Unlike his brothers, he isn't cruel, but he hasn't done much of anything since his wife died.
- Earl Hadd: The cruel and tyrannical earl of Holand, Hadd is wealthy and grows wealthier still from his high taxes. He has three sons, Harl, Harchad, and Navis, and prefers his granddaughters to his grandsons because they can be married off to make alliances.
- Old Ammet: One of the Undying, also known as the Earth Shaker. Ynynen is the lesser of his hidden names, which shakes the earth when invoked. He is a particular friend of Mitt's. His original name is Alhammitt (like Mitt's), and he is often described as a man with long grey or pale yellow hair and a young-old face. There is a custom in Holand in which, every year, a straw figure of Ammet is thrown into the sea during the Autumn Festival to bring luck and prosperity. The ship lucky enough to find Old Ammet's figure lashes it to its prow as a figurehead and is said to meet with great fortune.
- Libby Beer: Another one of the Undying and the wife of Poor Old Ammet. Her epithet is She Who Raised the Islands, and she is described as a woman in a green dress. Her lesser name causes plants to grow on any surface; her greater name raises land out of the sea. Her figure made of fruits and berries is also thrown into the sea during the Autumn Festival.
Explanation of the novel's title
"Drowned Ammet" refers to the custom in Holand of throwing a straw figure of Poor Old Ammet (see above) into the ocean.
- Drowned Ammet on Google Books (limited preview)