Books by Diana Wynne Jones

Released: April 22, 2014

"Aileen says of one of her friends, '[w]e stay awhile with each other, then part.' If that's all we get, we can be grateful for the while we have. (Fantasy. 10-13)"
The fates of four countries hang in the balance, and only an apprentice magicworker can save the day. Read full book review >
EARWIG AND THE WITCH by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: Feb. 1, 2012

"Earwig, as a spunky as any Jones heroine, keeps young and old readers chuckling through sadness at an era's end. (Fantasy. 7-9)"
A cunning heroine learns magic in Jones' last, posthumous offering. Read full book review >
ENCHANTED GLASS by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: April 1, 2010

Wynne Jones's inimitable style showcases a multi-generational cast of heroes and a chaotic finale at the village fête. Andrew Hope leaves his job as a university lecturer when his grandfather bequeaths him both a house and a field-of-care. Andrew isn't exactly sure what the field-of-care is, but he knows he needs to protect it. Perhaps it has something to do with the mystical beasties he'd forgotten inhabit his grandfather's land. Or perhaps it has something to do with 12-year-old Aidan, the runaway who's taken refuge with Andrew after being chased from a foster home by creatures he calls Stalkers. Goodness knows Andrew won't get a moment's peace to write his Great Work unless he takes control of the whole shebang. A rousing finale—complete with zeppelin-sized squash, a bouncy castle and several Darth Vaders—brings it all home for a gleeful, magic-packed conclusion. Too bad much of the humor comes from cheap fat jokes, classism and jibes about the cognitively disabled; the mean-spirited moments mar an otherwise playful frolic. (Fantasy. 10-12)Read full book review >
HOUSE OF MANY WAYS by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: June 1, 2008

Snark and affection abound in a colorful world filled with unfortunately dyed laundry, enormous kobold-built cuckoo clocks and horrifying cooking experiments. This third book in the Howl's Moving Castle (1986, etc.) series introduces Charmain, a crankily respectable girl in the kingdom of High Norland. Charmain's parents forbid anything that isn't ladylike or elegant (including cooking, tidying, magic and playing with other children). When Charmain is volunteered to housesit for sick Great-Uncle William, a wizard, she finds herself thrown into a muddled and magical international incident. Charmain's exposure to sorcerous power and national intrigue interest her less then the smaller but more personal growth opportunities available: befriending a wizard's apprentice, acquiring her first dog, learning how to do laundry. Sulky Charmain develops into a crotchety protagonist capable of empathy and self-sacrifice but still a fully realized crosspatch who comes into her own in a convoluted climax that is trademark Wynne Jones yet holds together unusually well. Fan-pleasing series regulars Howl, Sophie and Calcifer play major roles, but this joyfully chaotic tale stays Charmain's—and a good thing, too. (Fantasy. 11-13)Read full book review >
THE GAME by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: April 1, 2007

A fantasy novella kindles a sizzling premise that fails to catch fire. When a chance encounter with the mysterious musical magicians Flute and Fiddle introduces young Hayley to the "mythosphere," where myths, fairy tales and legends spin their strands through the human imagination, her stringent grandmother exiles her to school in Scotland. A temporary diversion through Ireland acquaints Hayley with several aunts and innumerable cousins, and (most exhilarating) The Game: a scavenger hunt through the mythosphere. But as Hayley roams through the Zodiac and romps through the Hesperides, she discovers secrets about herself and her family—secrets that might free her to defy even her tyrannical Uncle Jolyon. As always, Jones's prose sparkles, and Hayley is a likable character, diffident yet plucky; the mythosphere is a fascinating conceit that deserves open exploration. Unfortunately, the narrative is limited by a constricted paradigm, and the conclusion seems both predictable and forced. Readers lacking a solid grounding in Greek mythology are likely to be left puzzled, even with the concluding explanatory note. Plenty of glitter and flash, but hardly indispensable. (Fantasy. 11+)Read full book review >
THE PINHOE EGG by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: Oct. 1, 2006

Another joyful romp in Jones's Chrestomanci universe. Marianne's summer's been ruined. Her horrible grandmother, Gammer Pinhoe, has lost her mind and Marianne has to spend her holidays training to be the next Gammer. It's a terrible fate: Gammer's job is to govern the family and hide them from Chrestomanci, the civil servant in charge of magic. Dreadful days of looking after Gammer's cat Nutcase, stewing herbs for her family's illegal spells and visiting Gammer are finally disrupted when she meets the young enchanter Cat Chant. Cat lives up at the Big House and is training to be the next Chrestomanci, so Marianne should be avoiding him like the plague—but she quite likes him. Though it seems likely that Cat will cause nothing but trouble for the Pinhoes and their criminal spellcasting, she has so much fun when she's plotting with Cat and his friend, the griffin Klartch. This chaotic adventure, full of familiar characters, will delight old and new fans alike. (Fantasy. 10-13)Read full book review >
CONRAD’S FATE by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: April 1, 2005

Conrad Tesdinic has an Evil Fate in this entertaining Chrestomanci tale that begins a few years after The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988) leaves off. Conrad detests working in his Uncle Alfred's bookshop in the shadow of magical Stallery Mansion, and yearns for the day he can leave for high school. Alas, his dark Fate intervenes; Uncle Alfred explains that Conrad's Karma, earned with wicked deeds in a previous life, will lead to an agonizing death unless he kills a man in Stallery Mansion. Luckily for Conrad, Uncle Alfred has gotten him a job at Stallery. Conrad dislikes Stallery Mansion, and somebody keeps shifting reality, turning eggs into bacon and sundials into statues. He befriends fellow trainee Christopher, a charming and secretive boy who is searching for a magically stuck friend. As Conrad and Christopher explore multiple realities, Conrad's long-lost sister appears, involved in Stallery's dangerous intrigues. A wild romp with a fast-paced and satisfying conclusion, Conrad's humorous adventures will appeal to Christopher's existing fans and Jones neophytes alike. (Fantasy. 10-14)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2004

This eclectic collection of previously published stories will delight existing fans and win new ones. Here's an impressive range, from "Enna Hittims," in which a young girl's unintentional magic looses tiny heroes to ravage her home, to the novella "Everard's Ride," a historical fantasy full of epic political maneuverings. "The Girl Who Loved the Sun" provides an unusual romance among Jones's trademark humor. "Dragon Reserve, Home Eight" explores power on a world where each wife rules over her several husbands. Closer to home, in "Carruthers," Elizabeth uses her magical stick to overcome her sexist father. Stock stories gain depth when told from unfamiliar perspectives, as with "The Green Stone," narrated by the harassed scribe of a high-fantasy quest, or with "Little Dot's" narrator, the comfort-loving cat of a neighborhood Wizard. The presumably autobiographical "The Girl Jones" adds a touch of personal eccentricity. The running theme of surprise, reversed expectations, and the unexpected gives this collection a constant impact. Great work from one of the best modern fantasy authors; too bad none are new. (Fiction. 10+)Read full book review >
WILD ROBERT by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

Wild Robert provides the fizz in this outing from master fantasist Jones, the first US edition of a 1989 novella. Heather is significantly put out by living at Castlemaine, the stately home where her mum and dad are curators, and where, every morning, the tourists descend, driving Heather out. When she seeks solitude at the legendary grave of the witch, Wild Robert, she compounds her miseries tenfold by inadvertently summoning him. Charismatic, determined, and thoroughly wicked, in short order he has turned the older tourists into sheep and randy teenagers into satyrs, and has menaced a group of schoolchildren with monstrous frozen treats—but Heather finds the results of Wild Robert's magic more alarming than appealing for all its aptness. The brevity of the story limits the action to one day—the effective period of Wild Robert's magic—but it's a busy one, at the end of which both Heather and the reader will see the pathos behind Wild Robert's frenetic chaos. Minor Jones to be sure, but still entirely intelligent and engaging. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2003

In a stand-alone companion to Deep Secret (1999), Jones takes the kitchen-sink approach to plotting a gloriously twisty adventure. Arianrhod (Roddy) has spent all of her 14 years traipsing about an alternative Britain as part of the King's Progress, until she stumbles upon a conspiracy by the court wizards to pervert the magic of several worlds. Meanwhile, on our Earth, Nichothodes (Nick) yearns for the ability to walk between worlds, a feat he is unable to accomplish until pushed into yet another England, where he gets tangled up in a number of assassination plots, including one aimed at himself. Roddy's and Nick's parallel accounts continue in alternating chapters, spanning many fascinating worlds and involving a cast including (but not limited to) a dyslexic magician, a famous mystery writer, a multiversal über-assassin, a hypocritical Prayermaster, a charming lady elephant, a pair of obnoxious twin witches, the Welsh Lord of the Dead, the living personifications of three cities, a voracious goat, a sleeping dragon, and a sentient silver service. Many readers will long for a flowchart detailing how all these characters relate to each other (or, sometimes, turn out to be each other), but those accustomed to Jones's labyrinthine narrative pyrotechnics will settle back to enjoy everything crashing together in a universe-tilting climax. Nick—as charmingly lazy and self-centered as a cat—and Roddy—snobbish, bossy, and ferociously protective—are delightful companions for the ride, and it's hard not to hope that their stories aren't finished. Overstuffed and over the top, but a delicious romp. (Fantasy. YA)Read full book review >
YEAR OF THE GRIFFIN by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: Oct. 31, 2000

The sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm (not reviewed) continues to spoof traditional fantasy, this time satirizing the "school for magic" genre. Nine years after the wizard Derk shut down the demonic Mr. Chesney's devastating Tours, Derk's precocious but naïve griffin daughter Elda enrolls in the Wizards' University, only to discover its crumbling infrastructure, stripped library, and stunted curriculum reflect a faculty intent on stifling innovation in favor of utilitarian mediocrity. Elda assembles the requisite motley assortment of stalwart friends, sketchily presented in reverse stereotypes: the poverty-stricken prince, the beautiful, compassionate commoner, the meek imperial princess, the revolutionary jargon-spouting dwarf, and the vaguely Eastern target of fanatic assassins. After a brief pep talk on free enquiry from Derk, the six rapidly outstrip their tutors' magical prowess, and are soon foiling various nefarious villains, inciting the overthrow of a repressive regime, stopping wars, and inventing interplanetary exploration. Meanwhile, each reveals the obligatory dark secret and overcomes personal trauma, and all are neatly paired off in a denouement of sudden, nigh-inexplicable romances. This is all fun, frothy stuff, and Jones writes with a deft hand and a wicked sense of the absurdities inherent in the conventional formulas. Teens harboring doubts about their teachers' competency and sanity will revel in it. But the breakneck pace makes for perfunctory characterization and a muddled narrative, delivering neither the inspired lunacy nor the sophisticated twisty plotting that her fans expect. Like a chocolate-covered marshmallow, this is tasty fluff, but unsatisfying. (Fiction. 11-14)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1999

A variety of stories from Jones'some of which have appeared in other volumes in the US and/or the UK—have been newly gathered into this offering, certain to lure fans of the supernatural. The one entirely new story portrays Anne Smith, a girl in bed with mumps. To pass the time she dreams up "Enna Hittims," a tiny out-of-control superheroine who attacks her own creator and ends up squashed. The other stories, products of a supremely quirky imagination, certainly deserve a new showing. In "The Sage of Theare," a boy finds himself by stalking his own future. Jones tackles Greek myths in "The Girl Who Loved the Sun," an exploration of a girl who decides to turn into a tree. In "What the Cat Told Me," cat lovers will enjoy learning the history of a rather older-than-normal kitty who used her wiles to escape an evil magician. The remaining tales are "The Master," "Dragon Reserve, Home Eight," and the typographically-inspired "nad and Dan adn Quaffy." Those who have a few of these stories collected elsewhere may balk at the purchase, but others will relish the stories. The intriguing introduction illuminates the author's methodology, including a written admission that she finds ideas everywhere, even in typos. (Fiction. 12-14) Read full book review >
DEEP SECRET by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: April 1, 1999

Belated US appearance for this 1997 fantasy from the England resident author of A Sudden Wild Magic (1992). Jones's "Multiverse" has a magical dimension running from Ayewards, where magic is accepted and practiced, to Naywards, where few believe in it and even fewer use it. Traditionally, Earth's junior Magid keeps an eye on the Koyrfonic Empire, but when his boss dies, Rupert Venables succeeds him and must select his own replacement from a list provided by Them Up There. The candidates prove remarkably difficult to round up, never mind to interview. Meanwhile, an assassin's bomb takes out Koyrfon's thornbush-worshiping Emperor Timos IX; worse, the dismally paranoid Timos has hidden the location and identity of his heirs under a code word, Babylon, that only the reclusive centaur Knarros might elucidate. On Earth, Rupert locates one candidate, the bag-lady look-alike Maree Mallory; they loathe one another immediately. So he magically arranges to draw the other candidates together at PhantasmaCon, a fantasy convention being held in England at the apparently multidimensional Babylon Hotel. Somehow, Maree gets tangled up in the spell too, along with her weird cousin Nick. Rupert locates Knarros, but the centaur's soon murdered along with several of the emperor's offspring in an attack mounted from Earth by Nick's ghastly mother Janine. Then White, Janine's black-magician associate, zaps Maree, a potential Magid'she's not so bad, Rupert decides. To save her, Rupert must open a Deep Secret magical candle-lit road to Babylon. But is Nick really Koyrfon's heir? And what of Rupert's mysterious Viking—look-alike neighbor, not to mention the music-loving ghost in his car? An orchestrated riot, with tangled plots, bizarre doings, headlong pace, and foaming wit. Read full book review >
THE TIME OF THE GHOST by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

A strange and confusing book, first published in 1981 in England, about a disembodied spirit who isn't sure if she's a ghost, or even whose ghost she is. She suspects she's Sally Melford, one of four sisters whose neglectful parents run a boarding school, until she spies Sally, physically alive and well. Apparentally she's in the clutches of Monigan, an evil goddess invoked by one of the sisters, Cart, in an elaborate game of black magic gone wrong; she's actually the Sally of the future, hospitalized in critical condition, traveling back through time in an attempt to save herself and her sisters from the fate they've accidentally conjured. Freeing herself from Monigan's clutches proves to be a long and complicated process, especially for readers accustomed to and eager for Jones's usual well-braided plots and startling twists. A large cast of unpleasant characters provide fascinating moments; while Sally is relatively decent and sympathetic, her ongoing confusion about her identity diffuses her point of view. Gripping moments, yes, but on the whole disappointing. (Fiction. 10+)Read full book review >
HEXWOOD by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: April 1, 1994

In Jones's latest multilayered fantasy, Earth — unbeknownst to its inhabitants — is a minor planet manipulated from distant Homeworld by an oligarchy of five Reigners, who exploit the entire galaxy for economic gain. Earth's precious flint is vital to their technology; when a British hacker creates a disturbance by using "one of those old machines" to create a football team of real historical personages, the Reigners are drawn, one by one, to the scene. There, greengrocer's daughter Ann Stavely has become involved with the extraordinary characters appearing in the wood: Mordion, with skull-like features but a beatific smile, has emerged from a long entrapment; Hume — who springs from the earth where Mordion's blood mingles with Ann's after a minor injury — is a different age each time she meets him. Entering the present-day wood, the Reigners are absorbed into Arthurian Britain, where each persona (including dragons and a number of robots and machines) has several intricately linked identities — past, present, extraterrestrial, mythological. For those who enjoy the intellectual exercise of sorting them out, and of pondering whether God is in the machine or Christ is an ironic parallel to the Reigners' Servant (who bears the guilt of crimes he's forced to commit), the game offered here is unsurpassed; meanwhile, the grappling of the heroes-in-disguise with the avaricious (and chillingly human) Reigners and the emergence of their kindlier potential successors makes an elaborate, fascinating, and suberbly crafted adventure. (Fiction. 12+)Read full book review >
STOPPING FOR A SPELL by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: May 1, 1993

Three stories, each with several chapters, whose remarkable comic events turn on magic. A garish old armchair comes to life as ``Chair Person''—a garrulous autocrat who knows only what he's seen on TV and whose bossiness is a nightmarish parody of neighbor ``Aunt Christa,'' forever pressing the Chair Person's nice family into onerous tasks. ``Who Got Rid of Angus Flint?''- -an uninvited guest who's even more obnoxious than Aunt Christa and her alter ego—also involves furniture, this time animated by rage at the tyrannical Flint's insults toward everyone and everything: a vengeful mob led by the grand piano, baring its fierce keys, forcibly evict him. And in the third tale, ``Four Grannies'' with satirically contrasted temperaments try to care for two stepsiblings; the biggest joke here is on young inventor Erg, who's been instrumental in causing hilarious mayhem—but not by the means he imagines. As usual, Jones's sly wit and irrepressible imagination are a delight—in fast-moving, easily read, laugh-aloud stories. Illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 8- 12) Read full book review >
A SUDDEN WILD MAGIC by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

Readers who've looked into Jones's YA fiction (Castle in the Air, etc.) know her easy way of moving between the fantastic and the everyday, her dry sense of humor, and her refusal to be straitjacketed by formula. The same qualities abound in her first adult fantasy. Here, we're introduced to Ring, a benevolent order of witches charged with protecting the world from evil influences. The witches seem perfectly ordinary at first glance: a computer nerd, a dancing instructor, a dotty old woman who lives in a house full of cats. But they have just discovered Arth, a parasitic parallel world whose inhabitants cause crises on Earth and then copy the solutions, magical or technological, for their own purposes. An expedition sent to end the "piracy" is nearly destroyed, though several members survive to carry out the mission as best they can; meanwhile, Arth's spies on Earth are hard at work trying to uncover the Ring's intentions. Eventually, members of both societies discover the links between their lives and combine their efforts to defeat the evil. A rich current of comedy, from the deliciously understated to the outright slapstick, runs throughout. Refreshingly inventive, full of wonderful characters and incidents—and a chuckle on almost every page. Read full book review >
YES, DEAR by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: Sept. 16, 1992

Although Kay's special autumn leaf is magical—it makes her sand pies real, lets her converse with a caterpillar her own size on a giant rose, and turns her patchwork quilt robe into an elaborate kingdom—her parents and siblings (each busy with an activity that sparks one of Kay's adventures) brush off her pleas for notice. Only Granny recognizes the leaf's true power, and she understands completely, without even being told. The scenario is familiar, but Jones is unusually imaginative and adroit in shaping it; Philpot's pen and watercolor illustrations are also sympathetic, deftly drawn and full of amusing details of both the real and the fantasy worlds. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
AUNT MARIA by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: Oct. 23, 1991

With her usual facility, Jones plunges an ordinary family, in shock from the apparent death of their half-divorced Dad and newly entrapped by the needs of a decrepit great-aunt, into a weird mix of small-town pettiness, magic, and witchcraft, all overlaid with a wryly original look at the war between the sexes. At first, when they arrive to visit her, Aunt Maria seems blameless, but her plaintive disclaimers ("Don't bother to put napkins, dear. It's fun using kitchen cutlery") soon give way to direct demands without any diminution of the guilt felt by compliant Mum. Young Chris is odd man out from the beginning, but narrator Mig is horrified to find herself a favorite. It's soon evident that Aunt Maria is a sort of evil queen in Cranbury, with a dozen other women in her teatime court and spies behind every lace curtain; the town's other inhabitants are either "drones" or "zombies" (the men) or "clones" (children in a mysterious orphanage). Drawing on a bag of tricks that includes animal transformations, ghost-like emanations, and time travel, Jones builds to a denouement in which several mysteries are unraveled and a sort of anti-Pandora's Box is opened to allow people to assume their full, nonstereotypical potential. Setting the stage takes a bit long here, and the story is neither Jones's wittiest nor her most thought-provoking; still, the plot has that delightful intricacy her fans admire, and its multiplicity of details is remarkably imaginative. (Fiction. 12+)Read full book review >
CASTLE IN THE AIR by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: April 26, 1991

In a sequel to the ebulliently inventive Howl's Moving Castle (1986), a wicked djinn (with the aid of his more benevolent brother, whom he's managed to enthrall) has captured more than a hundred princesses in the hope of wedding them all. Young Abdullah, a rug merchant enamored of one of them, discovers that his dreams and nightmares are being precipitately realized as he endeavors to rescue her. A strange merchant sold him the carpet, threadbare but magical, that first wafted him to "Flower-in-the-Night"; he is soon also equipped with a comically cranky genie that does its best to subvert Abdullah's attempts to get out of his increasingly elaborate predicaments with the use of his daily wish. The quest takes him from the deserts near his native "Zanzib" to Britain-like Ingary (see Howl) and thence to the sky-high Castle, now considerably inflated by the djinns who are keeping the princesses there. True to form, Jones provides delicious personalities even for the carpet (it's lazy but susceptible to flattery), and slips in some double identities that should surprise even fans familiar with her bottomless bag of tricks. This hasn't quite the intellectual pyrotechnics of The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988), or as many wheels within thematic wheels; it will stand alone, but is even more fun if the familiar characters (who do finally turn up) are already known. A bewitching romp, gratifying to mind, imagination, and funny bone. Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1990

Twelve first-rate stories collected by a modern mistress of magic: not only "turnings," but yearnings, leanings, and spurnings—twists of fate, tables turned, and the hidden revealed. Belief in evil attracts evil (Douglas Hill); a goddess seeking a daughter causes another daughter to seek a mother (Tanith Lee); an old story about innocence betrayed leads to a new loss of innocence (Westall). In Gary Kilworth's tale, the possessed becomes the possessor. Jones herself relates how a wolf turns master when a master turns wolf; and Mary Rayner describes a medieval monk's extraordinary vision of peace: an 80's rock festival. Other notably inventive contributors include Helen Cresswell, Roger Zelazny, and Terry Patchett. Though the stories here vary from subtle and poetic to conventional and prosiac, all of them should entertain literate young adults—or indeed anyone with imagination and a love of language. Read full book review >
EIGHT DAYS OF LUKE by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: Sept. 15, 1988

First published in Britain in 1975, this early novel by a popular author of fantasy (The Lives of Christopher Chant, p. 619/C-97) is published here for the first time. David, an orphan, has as guardians four disagreeable relatives who blatantly dislike him and grudge him the most fundamental necessities. Inadvertently (chanting nonsense in the hopes of coming up with a charm), he summons Luke, who ultimately proves to be Loki: David has released him from 1000 years of imprisonment. Grateful, Luke befriends David, but the other Norse gods would like to recapture him and appear, disguised as mortals, on the successive days of the week that bear their names. Though becoming aware that Luke is an amoral mischief-maker, David is taken with his charm and wants to save him; to this end, he agrees to an impossible-sounding quest given him by Mr. Wednesday (Woden). Serious real-world themes—David has been made to feel guilty so often that he finds guilt easy to ignore, and discovers with relief that he can feel grateful if no one demands it—are skillfully dramatized. Less persistent readers may find the disguised deities—even with the help of an explanatory afterword—more of a puzzle than they are prepared to work out; but even without their added dimension (Loki and Woden, tree to character, are intriguingly ambivalent), there's plenty of action, humor, and suspense to enjoy here. Read full book review >
Released: May 16, 1988

An incredibly inventive fantasist inundates the reader with a cascade of magic, so artfully deployed that it never threatens to weigh down her buoyant story. Christopher (who appears as a full-fledged magician in Charmed Life, etc.) is here an apprentice with access to an array of parallel worlds: in one (12B, recognizably ours), technology began its vigorous growth in the 14th century; in Christopher's (12A), a complex system of available magic seems to be as luxuriant and fascinating (or daunting) as technology is in 12B. Exploring other worlds, Christopher is made the dupe of illicit smugglers of dragon's blood and mermaid parts. Meanwhile, back in 12A, he becomes the Chrestomanci's ward and heir and discovers how he has been used by the evil forces—just in time to make some clever, and daring, rescues. Christopher learns much more than magic—including how he appears to others and what those others are behind their masks, magic and otherwise—as well as loyalty and compassion. Never simplistic, Jones rarely creates a wholly good or wholly evil character. Her ebullient wordplay (the crucial eleventh world is both elven and devilish); her humor both slapstick and satirical; and her prestidigitation with ideas should delight her fans (the wicked Dright says, "I put them [the several lives of Chant's guardian] into the form which is easiest to deal with [a boy]" and, as Jones adds, "Like everything he said, this was full of other meaning"). Read full book review >
A TALE OF TIME CITY by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: Sept. 21, 1987

Eleven-year-old Vivian, kidnapped to far-distant future Time City by mistake, proves to be one of the City's saviors. Vivian Smith has gone to the West Country to escape the bombing of London at the beginning of WW II when she is unexpectedly met by imperious Jonathan Lee and whisked to Time City, which stands on its own piece of recycled time. Jonathan and his friend Sam explain that they had mistaken Vivian for the Time Lady, a mythical heroine or destroyer—their eavesdropping got muddled—who may be the cause of the deterioration of Time City. Convinced of their mistake, they pass Vivian off as cousin Vivian Lee. daughter of 20th-century Observers. The three bounce back and forth in time, trying to discover who is stealing the polarities, hidden by mysterious creator Faber John, that keep Time City whole. Aided by grouchy Tutor Wilander, android Elio, and a mysterious woman who saves Jonathan's life, they unmask Vivian Lee and her parents as the villians, reunite the pieces of Faber John and the pieces of the polarity, and save the city. As in earlier books such as Howl's Moving Castle, there is never a dull moment, with a new crisis or a new twist at every turn. While time-twisters never bear much scrutiny, Jones manages to resolve paradoxes and scattered clues without leaving the reader feeling cheated. Meanwhile, the book bounces merrily along, gathering momentum and generating dramatic tension. In all, a spirited, funny, and entertaining story. Read full book review >
HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: April 14, 1986

Sophie is caught between a powerful witch and wizard who are terrorizing the magical land of Ingary. Living a humdrum life as a hatter till the malicious Witch of the Waste casts a spell turning her into an old woman, Sophie seeks refuge as cleaning woman to Wizard Howl (although he's rumored to eat the hearts of young girls) in his castle, which moves at will about the countryside. Actually, Howl is a brash young man whose only vice is womanizing. He is a gifted wizard but the despair of his inept apprentice and of Calcifer, a humorously petulant fire demon, because of such human faults as messiness and spending too long in the bath. As in her memorable Archer's Goon, Jones has a plethora of characters who are seldom what they seem and an intricate plot which may dazzle with its complexity or delight by the hilarious common-sense consequences of its preposterous premises. Sophie is a dauntless heroine; when she regains her youth and wins Howl, the odds are this is only the beginning of a tempestuous romance. Great fun. Read full book review >
WITCH WEEK by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: Sept. 20, 1982

This latest entry in Jones' Chrestomanci series posits the surfacing of young witches in the closed, confined world of a traditional (though co-ed) boarding school, in a time after witchcraft has been stamped out but inquisitors are still afoot. A witch's gifts commonly show themselves around age eleven, which is just what happens here—to the terror and discomfort of Charles, who holds his finger to the candle flame to remind himself that "burning hurts"; the temporary joy of fat pariah Nan, who's delighted with her change in status; and the likely enjoyment of readers treated to the boarding-school intrigues and spellbound indiscretions. With the coming out of Nan and Charles, relationships shift, all hell breaks loose, more witches (one of them a teacher) reveal themselves, and when things get too hot the arch-enchanter Chrestomanci shows up, summoned by spell from a parallel world. This dapper gentleman settles in at the school, posing as divisional inquisitor and occasioning more shakeups, some of them quite unwelcome to the witches. There is also much exposition about the many parallel worlds of the series: The one in the story, where witchcraft is common but illegal, seems to be a redundant twin of another (ours?) . . . to which it is joined in the explosive classroom finale. And so the whole business is negated in a pouf of Guy Fawkes smoke—but it's larkish fun while the sparks fly. Read full book review >
Released: April 21, 1980

Jones sets this in the ununified Italy of a world "parallel to ours, where magic is as normal as mathematics, and things are generally more old-fashioned"—and she directs it like a manic opera, as the varied but uniformly voluble members of the closely-knit extended Montana family cope in frenetic counterpoint with one crisis after another. (The enemy is invading; the children are kidnapped; the cat ate the fish.) The most theatrical scene occurs fairly early on, when the Montanas in full force confront the hated Petrocci clan, their rivals in spell-casting, in a knock-'em-down, zap-'em-to-pieces contest of shape-changing magic. The battle occurs because each family believes the other guilty of kidnapping; but in fact an outside enchanter has imprisoned the youngest Montana and the youngest Petrocci to tie up both families' defensive spells while three other states invade their native Caprona. As little Tonino Montana and Angelica Petrocci discover to their terror and discomfort, the enchantress behind the plot against Caprona is the Duchess herself. Her tricks run to such inspired cruelty as making Punch-and-Judy puppets of her captives; and her evil genius proves so powerful that it takes the Duke, the now-united magician families, the Montana cat Benvenuto, and a guest appearance by the great Chrestomanci of Charmed Life (1978) to reduce her to her true rat's form and dispatch her accordingly. Jones carries off the performance with real finesse and a great show of brio. However, the absence of moral, intellectual, or (especially) emotional grounding might be an impediment to reader engagement. Read full book review >
THE SPELLCOATS by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: Aug. 14, 1979

This takes place in prehistoric Dalemark, whose later history Jones dealt with in Cart and Cwidder (1977) and Drowned Ammet (1978); but there is no evident connection except that the characters of The Spellcoats have become legendary figures in the other novels. The story, all 250 pages, is purportedly being woven, as it happens, into the coats created by young narrator Tanaqui—at first, it seems, she weaves only to record her family's adventures, but later for the inherent magic power of the woven symbols. Orphaned by a war against blond, invading Heathens, Tanaqui and her siblings (who look like the Heathens) are expelled from their village and embark on a long journey down river to an encounter with an evil enchanter out to capture their souls. The children carry with them three ancestral figures called the Undying. (For a while they also carry an ailing older brother, magically transformed into a clay figure.) They learn en route that The One, the most revered of the three figures, is the supreme river god and their own grandfather, and that their dead mother is also the river—and like Grandfather, a god and one of the figures (the Lady). (At one point, too, the river is seen to be a stream of souls, all tumbling toward the enchanter's net.) For a while the children travel with their own king, who has designs on the One (and on the oldest sister), but they prefer the young Heathen king; when both kings die in battle Tanaqui's brother succeeds both and unifies the land. There's more magic here and less human interest than in the companion novels; only those with an interest in the murky roots of imaginary realism will be swept along. Read full book review >
DROWNED AMMET by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: March 10, 1978

This is set in the repressive South of Dalemark, scene of Jones' Cart and Cwiddr (1977), and though it features all new characters, it leaves no doubt that we'll be meeting this lot again. Central among them is young Mitt, who hates both the ruling Earl and the revolutionaries whom he believes to have informed on his father, now presumably dead. Mitt in fact has been brought up to avenge his father, planning to destroy both sides with one bomb on the day of a strange festival, whose significance everyone has forgotten, during which symbolic dummies inexplicably named Old Ammet and Libby Beer are to be dumped into the sea. But the plan backfires and Mitt flees, taking off to sea in gunpoint command of a pleasure boat owned and operated by the old Earl's independent-minded young grandchildren. The wary relationship that develops among the three young people is especially well done, and there is a pulse-racing storm at sea during which Ammet and Libby come subtly, impressively to the rescue. Then the trio saves a brutal, cynical thug from another, smaller boat. That he turns out to be the double-dealing assassin who had stolen Mitt's thunder at the festival seems reasonable, but the revelation later on that he is Mitt's missing father as well puts a strain on readers' willing credulity. And the effectiveness of Mitt's ultimate selection by gods (yes, gods) Ammet and Libby, and of the wondrous earth-raising feats those two at last perform on behalf of Mitt and the two threatened children, must depend on readers' receptivity to awe-invoking high fantasy. A well-wrought adventure, in any case. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 27, 1978

Younger brother of a talented witch, Cat seems to be the only guy on the block—and, later, the only resident of the strange castle to which the two orphaned children are transported—who can't do magic. For a while after their move, Sister Gwendolen raises all sorts of supernatural hell in protest against her less-than-fawning treatment at the hands of Chrestomanci, the aristocratic lord of the castle. But she's no match for the powers there, and when she finds she can't rule this world, she takes off for another. (There are nine worlds in all, we learn, and Cat's is a bit different from ours.) And after Gwendolen's disappearance, Cat learns that he is one of a very rare breed of nine-lived enchanters, that his special gifts have marked him as a future Chrestomanci, and that Gwendolen has been using his powers all along to perform her wicked tricks. Jones' talents are slighted in a synopsis, for she writes with exceptional finesse—whether establishing the atmosphere of the castle, orchestrating large confrontations, or filling in the domestic scene with vital incidentals. But the framing ideas are weak. The notion of alternate worlds with duplicate populations is commonplace, if functional, and not worth all her meticulous, anticlimactic unraveling. And the revelation that the enigmatic Chrestomanci is a "government employee," charged with keeping other witches in check so they don't muck up the world (this in a world where only the rich have cars), is both disappointingly tame and disturbingly paternalistic. Read full book review >
POWER OF THREE by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: Aug. 22, 1977

A fantasy about events on the Moor after brash Orban kills a Dorig for its golden collar. The delicate balance among the local races—Lyman, Dorig (mound-and water-dwelling fairies), and Giant—is upset when the collar brings a vague but powerful curse down upon all three peoples: the Moor, it seems, will soon be covered with water. Lyman and Dorig blame each other, and all-out war impends until three Lyman youngsters stumble into a friendship with Gerald and Brenda, two Giant children. Enlisting the help of a Dorig prince, the young folk envision a bright new day when their peoples will realize that "we're all the same underneath." The elders prove less tractable; it takes a lot of tiresome maneuvering to save the Moor and establish a new live-and-let-live philosophy. Jones paints lively portraits of her Moor folk and displays an amused humor toward their world, one in which Giants steal children because, as one character says wryly, "they seem to think they can bring them up better"; and the Lymen have an engaging medieval/middle-class approach to their magic. But—horrors!—this isn't MiddleEarth, it's the 1970s. Gerald and Brenda are human kids whom fairy magic reminds of Uri Geller, and the Moor is being flooded to provide a reservoir for the people of London. The story never recovers from the shock. Read full book review >
CART AND CWIDDER by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: March 9, 1977

Where would juvenile fantasy be without stringed instruments? Not in Dalemark, where Clennen the singer travels with his family through a repressive South, flamboyantly performing with his ancient "cwidder" but covertly passing information to would-be freedom fighters allied with the North. Then Clennen is killed; Ms unperturbed wife goes straight to her still waiting, aristocratic former suitor (a Southerner); the children, discovering their father's other identity as a notorious spy, prefer the road; and Kialin, a young passenger their father had taken into their cart, turns out to be a Northern prince fleeing abductors. With older brother Dagner soon arrested, it's up to Moril, eleven, and his sister Brid, to sing and play their way North to Kialin's freedom and their own, and it's on that eventful trip that Moril discovers both the powers that rest in his father's cwidder and his own ability to summon them. After a bit of hasty soul searching, Moril is able to put a pursuing Southern army to sleep with his music, to rout another with the illusion of advancing Northern forces, and, for a climax, to make the very mountains move, filling a pass through the Mils with rocky debris that buries the Southern leaders for good. Don't look for import—Moril's introspection is of the most cursory sort, and the good Earl (Kialin's father) on whose largesse his Northern subjects prosper makes a fairy tale indeed of the political goings on. But for those who prefer their adventures in imaginary realms, Jones' distinct personalities, agile plotting, and unobtrusive telling will more than suffice. Read full book review >
DOGSBODY by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: Feb. 28, 1977

When the dog star Sirius is falsely convicted of murdering a luminary, Polaris sentences him to a real dog's life on earth, where he becomes the pet of mistreated little Kathleen—and there's much well-staged action in their run-ins with the family she lives with and in Sirius' rocky road to accommodation with their cats. But it's to be a dog's death too unless Sirius finds something called the Zoi—even he doesn't know what it is, but he recognizes its awesome power when he does acquire it, after much frantic to-do: urgent consultation with Sol and Earth, a midnight hunt with a horned hound master, and some hair-raising encounters with his treacherous former Companion, now in human form but retaining her eerie luminosity. And so Sirius ends up back in his sphere and Kathleen, through his intercession, in a kinder home. Jones sees clearly and writes effectively and the girl-and-dog story is a sure, and never sticky, heart-tugger. But the cosmic trappings are merely ridiculous. Read full book review >
THE OGRE DOWNSTAIRS by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: April 30, 1975

More Witch's Business (KR, 1974) out of phials with strange powers but here The Ogre is the new stepfather of Johnny, Caspar and Gwinny, a man with two children of his own whom they dislike almost as much as him. A child of each menage is given a chemistry set and the first powder, Vol. pulv., makes Gwinny rise like a blimp to the ceiling. Worse, much worse is to follow: there are toffee bars that scuttle, proliferate and eat everything in sight as well as droves of dustballs; finally Mummy disappears—more naturally—after a falling out with the Ogre but in the end he's put in Iris place and the families are realigned together. Once again the dialogue is nice and easy, nice and natural, and it's all lighter than air. Read full book review >
WITCH'S BUSINESS by Diana Wynne Jones
Released: March 1, 1974

This neat bit of business begins when Jess and Frank decide to earn some pocket money by contracting themselves out to people in need of revenge and find that their new enterprise, advertised as Own Back, Ltd., is in direct competition with the local witch. And it ends like a charm when the neighborhood children, by now in league together against the thoroughly nasty witch, recall the ending of Puss In Boots and trick old Biddy into transforming herself into a mouse in the presence of her familiar. In between Jess and Frank move quickly if not too efficiently to thwart Biddy's plans and their plotting is punctuated by the "colorful" language — rendered as "purple" this and "orange" that — of the tough kid Buster who changes sides midway through. Nothing subtle, but as easy as abracadabra. Read full book review >