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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.

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. Accused of murder and theft, Sirius is sentenced to life on Earth as a mortal dog, where he is sentenced to die after his considerably shortened lifespan. He has only one chance at redemption: he can return to his celestial home only if he tracks down the mysterious stolen Zoi and returns it to the heavens.

Bu... Read More

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, but a typical inclusion to the range of fantasy novels.

Due to the conflict between north and south countries in the land of Dalemark, very few travellers move between them, with the exception of licensed musicians in their horse-drawn carts, entertaining the crowds wherever they stop. Dagner, Moril and Brid are the children of the singer Clennen and Lenina who... Read More

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, the first two chapters introduce the rest of the story to come. First, Adara and her bullish brother Orban come across a young Dorig princeling, and Orban demands the beautiful collar around its neck. Refusing, the Dorig places a deep curse upon the collar that will bestow bad luck upon the holder and the surroundings.

Chapter two takes place several years later when Adara elopes w... Read More

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. Ultimately Harry Potter is the deeper and more intricate series, but DWJ's novels are stand-alone, can be read out of... Read More

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. It will not ruin any of the surprises in that book, and instead drops little hints throughout (such as Chrestomanci's aversion to silver, and the name of his future wife) that will become that much more enjoyable when you read of them in Charmed Life.

Set in a paralle... Read More

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?

Then the anonymous witch starts having some fun — a flock of exotic birds in music class, a removal of all the shoes in the school. The hunt is on among students and teachers to find the culprit, with the threat of the merciless Inquisitors visiting the school at the back of all their minds. But as the mystery deepens, several of the students seem to find that they themselves have magical powers,... Read More

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.

It starts off lightly with "Warlock at the Wheel", concerning a hapless warlock who inadvertently kidnaps a little girl and her dog after he steals a car. The most humorous of all four stories, it details his panic-stri... Read More

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.

Told predominantly in flashback sequences, we begin when nineteen-year-old Polly Whittacker is packing to go to college when her memory begins to stir. Her recollections of a book and a picture on the wall are not as she remembers them, and only when she concentrates and really begins to think does she realize that she seems to h... Read More

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, easy-going cascade.

This isn’t to say that Howl’s Moving Castle is a perfect book by any means, but I want to make the point early and strongly that it is a very enjoyable one. The story concerns one Sophie Hatter and her relationship with the wizard Howl. Sophie has been transformed by a... Read More

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).

Diana Wynne Jones takes the setting and atmosphere of Arabian Nights and creates her own story filled with flying carpets, deserts, exotic princesses, genies and djinns (although what the difference between these last two species are, she unfortunately never clarifies — I think that genies are contained within an object of some kind, whilst djinns are more god-like).... Read More

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, leading to any number of places, the royal palace included. Soon she finds herself embroiled in a quest to find the mysterious Elfgift and to stop a devious, murderous creature called a Lubbock. Fortunately (?) for Charmain, she has help: a magician's apprentice, a woeful dog that just might be magical, and the family of the wizard Howl.
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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. The company that sells the tours, Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties, is from our world. Mr. Chesney’s company has constructed a medieval fantasy setting in the parallel world and employs the people who live there to act out the stereotypical characters that its customers expect.

Much to his dismay, this year Derk has... Read More

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, in the vein of HARRY POTTER. You don’t need to read Dark Lord of Derkholm first.

Year of the Griffin begins eight years after the events of Dark Lord of Derkholm and stars one of Derk’s c... Read More

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, it is a treasure to be able to enjoy a whole tale in one sitting.

Many collections of fantasy short stories are a compilation of hit or miss attempts to match a loosely defined theme for the volume. The Firebird Anthologies far exceed the industry standard. They are edited by Shar... Read More

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. Maria appears to be a cuddly old lady (though is constantly ringing up and meddling in their lives), but once they get to their house the siblings find that she is much worse. Behind her compliments and manners is an old lady determined to get her own way — for instance, when she says "I won't bother with breakfast, now Lavinia's not here... Read More

Other novels by Diana Wynne Jones

diana wynne jones review a sudden wild magicA Sudden Wild Magic — (1992) For adults. Publisher: The pirate mages of Arth are threatening Earth with total extinction and it is up to the Ring, a secret society of witches and warlocks dedicated to the continuance and well-being of mankind, to fight them off.


fantasy and science fiction book reviewsDeep Secret — (1997)  Ages 9-12. Publisher: A fast and witty fantasy novel about the magician in charge of Earth, who maintains the balance between positive and negative magic for the good of all.

diana wynne jones review the merlin conspiracyThe Merlin Conspiracy — (2003) Ages 9-12. Sort of a sequel to Deep Secret. Publisher: The story is narrated by two very different teenagers, who each inhabit two extraordinarily different worlds. Arianrhod Hyde’s world (or Roddy, as she prefers to be called) is very much the world of magic, pageantry and ritual. Not unlike Britain in King Arthur’s Day, Roddy is daughter of two Court Wizards and therefore part of the King’s Progress, travelling round the Islands of Blest and ready to take part in whatever ritual or ceremony is required, as it occurs. Presiding over all, the most important person is the Merlin, who is entrusted with the magical health of the Isles of Blest. Nick Mallory’s world is much more familiar — at least, it starts off being our own. But it soon transpires that Nick’s not quite the ordinary 15 year old he seems, as he slips sideways into something he thinks is a dream — but in fact is another world entirely. Now, Nick’s been on other worlds before (although never alone) but he’s a confident type. Maybe a bit too confident… In Roddy’s world, the current Merlin expires and a new one takes his place. Yet something is wrong — the rituals have been upset and nothing is going the way it should. Roddy needs help, and certain powers indicate that Nick is to be the one to help her. And Nick is cool about helping her — in theory… but it’s a bit worrying that she seems to mistake him for a magic-user. Their stories unfold, side-by-side, each part leading into the next, and the Merlin Conspiracy thickens as the tales swirl around each other — twining, meeting and affecting each other, yet never completely combining until the very end chapters when all is finally revealed. Compelling, howlingly funny in places, mind-boggling — this is going to WOW DWJ fans all around the world (and probably in other universes too).

diana wynne jones review the gameThe Game — (2007) Young adult. Publisher: Hayley’s parents disappeared when she was a baby. Since then, she has been raised and homeschooled by her grandparents. Grandad is overworked and travels a lot; Grandma is much too strict and never lets her meet any children her own age. When Hayley does something wrong — she is not quite sure what — they pack her off to her aunts in Ireland. To Hayley’s shock, her family is much bigger than she thought; to her delight, the children all play what they call “the game,” where they visit a place called “the mythosphere.” And while she plays the game, Hayley learns more about her own place in the world than she had ever expected. This original novella by Diana Wynne Jones is sharply funny, fast-paced, and surprising until its very end — like all of this acclaimed author’s work.

4/6/2010	Diana Wynne Jones 	 Enchanted Glass Enchanted Glass — (2010) Ages 9-12. Publisher: Aidan Cain has had the worst week of his life. His gran died, he was sent to a foster home, and now malicious beings are stalking him. There is one person Gran told Aidan to go to if he ever got into trouble — a powerful sorcerer who lives at Melstone House. But when Aidan arrives on the doorstep, he finds that the sorcerer’s grandson, Andrew, has inherited the house. The good news is that Aidan can tell immediately that Andrew’s brimming with magic, too — and so is everyone else at Melstone. The bad news is that Andrew doesn’t remember anything his grandfather taught him. Chaos is swiftly rising, and he has no idea how to control it. A sinister neighbor is stealing power from the land, magic is leaking between realms… and it’s only a matter of time before the Stalkers find Aidan. If Aidan and Andrew can harness their own magics, they may be able to help each other. But can they do it before the entire countryside comes apart at the seams?

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe Islands of Chaldea — (2014) Ages 9-12. Publisher: The Islands of Chaldea is a new novel of magic and adventure by the renowned fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones, who left behind many acclaimed and beloved books upon her death in 2011, including the internationally bestselling Howl’s Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci books. The Islands of Chaldea was completed by Diana Wynne Jones’s sister Ursula Jones, an acclaimed novelist and actress. Aileen comes from a long line of magic makers, and her Aunt Beck is the most powerful magician on Skarr. But even though she is old enough, Aileen’s magic has yet to reveal itself. When Aileen is sent over the sea on a mission for the King, she worries that she’ll be useless and in the way. A powerful (but mostly invisible) cat changes all of that—and with every obstacle Aileen faces, she becomes stronger and more confident and her magic blooms. This stand-alone novel is a perfect introduction to the novels of the beloved Diana Wynne Jones.