Reviews: Twelve by Diana Wynne Jones

Of Everything That Stands

The Islands of Chaldea — Diana Wynne Jones

2014’s The Islands of Chaldea was Diana Wynne Jones’ final novel. Unfinished at the time of Jones’ death in 2011, it was completed by Diana Wynne Jones’ sister, Ursula Jones.

The women of Aileen’s family all undergo a rite of passage, one which they hope will lead to a vision and special powers. Aileen is sure that she failed her vision quest. No vision, no evident power or talent. So she is puzzled when her Aunt Beck insists on bringing her to a consultation with King Kenig of the island of Skarr.

This, as you might expect, is the start of her adventures.

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Got Away From You

The Lives of Christopher Chant — Diana Wynne Jones
Chrestomanci, book 2

1988’s The Lives of Christopher Chant is the fourth book published in Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci series. It is set some decades before Charmed Life.

Christopher Chant was unlucky when issued a family. His father is a well-meaning upper-class bumbler, and his mother is a grasping social climber who is gravely disappointed in her husband. Although they cohabit, Mr. and Mrs. Chant aren’t on speaking terms. Since raising Christopher is Mrs. Chant’s domain, Christopher barely knows his father.

Two developments reshape Christopher’s life. One is that his father manages to lose the family fortune. The second …

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Fortunate Son

Drowned Ammet — Diana Wynne Jones
Dalemark Quartet, book 2


1977’s Drowned Ammet is the second volume in Diana Wynne Jones’ Dalemark Quartet.

At first, Alhammit “Mitt” Alhammitson’s childhood is happy enough, even though his family is not in the best of circumstances. They are peasants, living on land belonging to the malevolent Earl Hadd. The earl is far too busy feuding with other earls to even notice a farming couple and their child. Unfortunately, the family does not escape the notice of Hadd’s rent collector. He takes a dislike to them, doubles their rents, and eventually forces them off the land.

Mitt’s father joins the Free Holanders, a group of radicals. The group is betrayed to the earl; Mitt’s father disappears and is later said to have been killed by the earl’s soldiers. Mitt’s mother Milda believes that she knows who betrayed her husband and raises Mitt in the belief that he must take vengeance on the remaining Free Holanders: Siriol, Dideo, and Ham. Who but they could have betrayed their comrade? Why else would they have survived the earl’s heavy hand?

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That Unfinished Goal

Eight Days of Luke — Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones’ 1975 Eight Days of Luke is a standalone young-adult fantasy.

Orphan David Allard is a lucky boy, or so his guardians — Uncle Bernard, and Aunt Dot — assure him. After all, they took him in when they could have dumped him in an orphanage. They’d let him live with their family (uncle, aunt, cousins Ronald and Astrid) … intermittently, that is. Most of the time he is packed off to one boarding school or another.

David returns from boarding school a week early, which throws the family’s plans into chaos. The results are life-changing.


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Nebulous Bright

Dogsbody — Diana Wynne Jones

1975’s Dogsbody is a stand-alone fantasy novel by Dianna Wynne Jones.

Accused of a murder he did not commit, Sirius must prove his innocence before a court of his fellow stars or face a terrible punishment.

Matters do not proceed entirely to Sirius’ benefit. By the time the novel begins he has already been found guilty, damned by the testimony of his beloved Companion and his own reluctance to explain what really happened. The only question remaining is which particular dismal punishment awaits Sirius.

(cruelty to animals warning)


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Caught Up in Circles

A Tale of Time City — Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones’ 1987 A Tale of Time City is a standalone young-adult SF novel.

1939: a year after World War Two has broken out, young Vivian Smith is sent off to the country, to live with her cousin Marty for the duration. She is not met by her cousin; she is met by Jonathan Lee Walker, who kidnaps Vivian and whisks her off to a destination outside of time itself.

In Jonathan’s defense, he means well.

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Eye in the Sky

A Sudden Wild Magic — Diana Wynne Jones

1992’s A Sudden Wild Magic is a standalone fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones.

For centuries, Britain has been secretly protected by the Ring, a cabal of powerful magicians. Or so the Ring believed. Much to his alarm, Mark Lister, master of magic and computer sciences, discovers that the Ring, Britain, and the entire world are pawns in a larger game.

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Don’t Play Your Games With Me

Charmed Life — Diana Wynne Jones
Chrestomanci, book 1

1977’s Charmed Life is the first novel in Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci series.

Gwendolen and Eric “Cat” Chant were orphaned by a boating disaster; their survival wasn’t due to luck, but to Gwendolen’s witchy gifts. Their new guardian, Mrs. Sharp, is a Certified Witch. She does her best to mentor Gwendolen, but her best is not enough for ambitious Gwendolen.

Gwedolen exploits a family connection to senior mage Christopher Chant — better known as Chrestomanci — and cajoles him into inviting her into the Chrestomanci household. Her totally insignificant (in her eyes) brother, Cat, comes as part of the package. No matter. The fame and power to which she is entitled will soon be hers! Or so she thinks.

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The Family Circle

The Dark Lord of Derkholm — Diana Wynne Jones
Derkholm, book 1

1998’s The Dark Lord of Derkholm (simply Dark Lord of Derkholm in American Guberniya editions) is the first of Diana Wynne Jones’ two Derkholm novels.

Mr. Chesney would argue that his Pilgrim Parties bring fame and wealth to the fantasy realm that is lucky enough to host the annual expeditions. The inhabitants of that realm might reply that Mr. Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties bring chaos, destruction, and massive loss of life. Since Mr. Chesney has a powerful demon on his side, how the locals feel does not really matter.

Determined to end the tours for once and for all, Querida, head of Wizards University, appoints notoriously incompetent wizard Derk as the new designated Dark Lord. He will be the focus for the tourists’ focused ire. He is tasked with creating the illusion of a vast dark kingdom, one in dire need of rescue by determined murder hobos tourists.

Derk is set on fire by an irate dragon, which was not part of the Plan.

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Let The World Sing Along

Cart and Cwidder — Diana Wynne Jones
Dalemark Quartet, book 1

1975’s Cart and Cwidder is the first book in Diana Wynne Jones’ Dalemark Quartet.

Osfameron Tanamoril Clennenson — Moril for short — has spent his life travelling from town to town with his father Clennan, mother Lenina, and siblings Dagner and Brid. The family troupe makes a living as travelling entertainers, messengers, and occasional escort for travellers in strife-torn Dalemark. In the course of their travels, they frequently cross from North Dalemark to South Dalemark and back.

A brutal encounter at a lakeside campsite ends their travels.

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Get The Party Started

Deep Secret — Diana Wynne Jones
Magid, book 1

1997’s Deep Secret is the first of two novels in Diana Wynne Jones’ Magid series.

Through no fault of his own, magid Rupert Venables is drawn into two pressing succession problems. The first problem is to find a magid trainee. The former head magid has died (well, he’s dead but not exactly gone; such is the nature of magids). Rupert is now the senior magid and needs an apprentice and future successor. The second problem is finding the true heir to the Koryfonic Empire, hidden away by the previous, rather paranoid, emperor.

It’s no use asking the emperor himself: Timos IX is very sincerely, very thoroughly dead. So are Timos’ friends and confidants, who might have known where the heir had been stashed. The bomb that reduced Timos IX to vapour was very large.

Rupert decides backburner the question of the missing heir and focus on the quest to find an apprentice and head-magid-to-be. That should at least be straightforward.

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Cut You Like The Tiny Slivers Of Glass

Howl’s Moving Castle — Diana Wynne Jones
Howl, book 1

1986’s Howl’s Moving Castle is the first book in Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl series.

Life in Ingary is a faerie tale affair, as its inhabitants well know. How wonderful for Martha Hatter! As the youngest of three sisters, she is surely destined for fame, wealth, and a perfect marriage.

It is considerably less wonderful for Sophie Hatter, the oldest of the three sisters. Everyone knows the oldest child will have at best an unremarkable life — if they are lucky. The oldest might be more likely to suffer a grim fate, which will serve to cast the youngest’s destiny in a brighter light. They might even, as Sophie does, find themselves the target of a curse that by rights should have been cast on a younger sister.


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