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SFF Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones(1934-2011)
Diana Wynne Jones spent her childhood in Essex and began writing fantasy novels for children in 1973. With her unique combination of magic, humour and imagination, she enthralled both children and adults with her work. She won the Guardian Award in 1977 with Charmed Life, was runner-up for the Children’s Book Award in 1981, and was twice runner-up for the Carnegie Medal. She lived in Bristol with her husband and they have three sons. She died in March 2011 after a battle with cancer. There are a lot of articles, tips for writers, and other material at The Official Diana Wynne Jones website.



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Dogsbody: Another gem from the mind of Diana Wynne Jones

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones

My usual response to reading any book by Diana Wynne Jones is: “how does she come up with this stuff?” This is swiftly followed by bewilderment (especially in the wake of Harry Potter) that nobody has ever adapted any of her work, despite the fact her stories would make for excellent on-screen entertainment.

Dogsbody (1975) is no exception. It begins by introducing the immortal Dog Star Sirius, who is in serious trouble with his peers.


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Cart and Cwidder: Immensely interesting

Cart and Cwidder by Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones is best known for her quirky books that combine magic with realistic, everyday people dealing with the problems that magic creates. Though some take place in parallel worlds, the general atmosphere of these books are contemporary and firmly grounded in reality. However, Cart and Cwidder is the first book in THE DALEMARK QUARTET that follows the more generic pattern of fantasy (war in a created world) — making it unique in Diana Wynne Jones’s canon of books,


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Power of Three: One of DWJ’s best novels

Power of Three by Diana Wynne Jones

Combining the atmosphere of Celtic folklore with a plot reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, an intricate plot (including a huge twist halfway through that will completely turn your perception of the story on its head), and likable characters, Power of Three is one of Diana Wynne Jones’ best novels — and so inevitably it is one of her least known.

Set on moorlands inhabited by Giants, reptilian Dorig and tribes of warrior-like clans,


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Charmed Life: Rich in detail and cleverness

Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones’s novels, Charmed Life is possibly her most famous, and her most read. It is the first published of her Chrestomanci novels, and it stars many of her most famous characters with her requisite twisting plot and quirky sense of humour. Set in a parallel world ripe with magic, wizards and magical creatures, DWJ’s Chrestomanci quartet were clearly inspirational to J.K. Rowling in her creation of Hogwarts and her wizarding world — a lot of comparisons can be made between the two.


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The Lives of Christopher Chant: A wonderful place to begin the Chrestomanci books

The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones

The Lives of Christopher Chant is set twenty-five years before the events told in Charmed Life, but was published after it in 1988. Although many would avidly insist that you must read such books in publishing rather than chronological order (just look at the debate that rages over how you’re supposed to read the Chronicles of Narnia) I would suggest reading this before Charmed Life.


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Witch Week: Each character is a gem

Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones

So says the note that Mr Crossley finds hidden between the exercise books in class 2Y. In any other world, this would be seen as a harmless joke, but at Larwood House for witch orphans, in a world run by Inquisitors and where witch-burnings still take place, such things are taken deadly seriously. Who is the witch? Chubby Nan Pilgrim, named after the most famous Arch-Witch? Sullen Charles Morgan, who holds a sympathetic view toward witches? Or weird Brian Wentworth, who behaviour gets stranger by the day?


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Mixed Magics: A short story anthology for Chrestomanci fans

Mixed Magics by Diana Wynne Jones

Mixed Magics (2000) is comprised of four short stories set in the fantasy worlds of Diana Wynne Jones‘s CHRESTOMANCI; an enchanter responsible for the proper use of magic wielded by the various witches, warlocks, sorcerers and enchanters prevalent throughout his world (and several others). Although the stories are readable enough by themselves, filled with Wynne Jones’s trademark humour and originality, it’s best if you’re already familiar with her previous work in the series, these tales being filled with plenty of in-jokes and cameo appearances.


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Fire and Hemlock: DWJ’s most complex and subtle novel

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

Fire and Hemlock is possibly Diana Wynne Jones’ most complex and subtle novel, and it’s certainly not for the younger readers who’ve enjoyed her most famous work, the Chrestomanci novels. It is most basically described as a retelling of the Tam Lin/Thomas the Rhymer ballads, set in 1980’s England over a nine-year period. Needless to say, it is dense and complicated, filled with hidden meaning, metaphor and symbolism where two threads of life are wound together to make an intricate whole.


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Howl’s Moving Castle: A book that’s easy to love

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl’s Moving Castle is a book that is very easy to love. Diana Wynne Jones is a consistently entertaining author, and her prose seldom fails to be enticing and comfortable as settling into a favorite armchair, even when opening one of her books for the first time. What is perhaps even more impressive is that it’s generally very hard to discern any effort beneath the workings. Jones almost gives the impression that she writes at perfect ease, never agonizing but instead kicking back and letting the words flow in an uninterrupted,


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Castle in the Air: A great sequel!

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

Castle in the Air is the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle, both of which are two of my favourite Diana Wynne Jones books (and according to an interview Howl’s Moving Castle is one of hers). I strongly suggest reading this preceding novel before tackling the sequel as several of the characters and plot twists found here will not be fully appreciated without knowing the previous story (which is a mistake I made).


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House of Many Ways: My favorite DWJ world

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

Had I realized that House of Many Ways was another sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle it would’ve ended up in my hands even quicker than it did. Nevertheless, it found its way there happily enough, allowing me another visit into my favorite of Diana Wynne Jones’ wonderful worlds.

House of Many Ways features Charmain Baker, an overly sheltered girl strong-armed by her aunt into taking care of her Great-Uncle William’s cottage — which just so happens to bend space and time,


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Dark Lord of Derkholm: A delightfully satirical fantasy

Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998) is a delightful young adult story for those who like a heavy dose of satire in their fantasy. Similar to Diana Wynne JonesThe Tough Guide to Fantasyland, it pokes fun of the genre we love by exposing and exploiting some of its most common clichés.

The story takes place in a world parallel to ours to which people can travel and pay to have an adventure.


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Year of the Griffin: A sweet boarding school fantasy

Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones

Year of the Griffin (2000) is a sequel (of sorts) to Diana Wynne JonesDark Lord of Derkholm, a satirical fantasy aimed at children and young adults, but just as enjoyable for grown-ups. Year of the Griffin is different — it’s not a satire and, for that reason, probably isn’t as appealing to adults, but I still enjoyed it. It’s what I like to call a boarding school fantasy,


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The FIREBIRDS Anthologies: Excellent short fiction for young adults

The FIREBIRDS anthologies edited by Sharyn November

Firebirds is the first of the three FIREBIRD anthologies edited by Sharyn November. Some people don’t like short stories, especially in anthologies where you are reading several different authors. I, however, almost always have a volume of short stories on my bedside table. Even if I manage to get no other reading done during a hectic day, it is a way for me to finish a whole story in 15-20 minutes. In an age where many authors seem incapable of writing anything other than multi-novel epics,


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Aunt Maria: Would make a brilliant movie!

Aunt Maria by Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones once again combines eccentric characters, moral ambiguity, magic, time-traveling, shapeshifting and an uncanny ability to portray human behaviour in one of her best books: Aunt Maria. With all the twists and turns that we expect from Wynne Jones, Aunt Maria is one of the most re-readable and enjoyable books in her vast collection.

After the accidental death of their father, Naomi “Mig” and Chris Laker are reluctantly taken to Cranbury-on-Sea by their mother to visit Aunt Maria.


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