Diana Wynne Jones in Publishing Order
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I've decided to re-read all the novels of Diana Wynne Jones, in publication order. When I first discovered her, the internet wasn't around, a lot of her books were out of print and I just picked up anything that I could find in the library. Several years later on, with a few gaps I didn't know existed, I caught up with her and and I've been looking out for new books ever since, having swiftly filled in the gaps when the internet arrived. In many ways, the publication of Earwig and the Witch is set to be a sad occasion, however much I look forward to it.
I've read all of these at least once and many of them dozens of times, but always haphazardly - only lately as they came out. So. This year, I've decided to read all her fiction (just because I want to and because they make me very happy).
I'm going to exclude The Skiver's Guide and The Tough Guide to Fantasyland from the reading order as they're both non fiction and I've read the former very recently. I probably will read The Tough Guide at some point out of order pretty soon however.
Also excluded are Hidden Turnings, "Fantasy Stories" and Now We Are Sick as (in the case of the two former) collections of short stories that she's only edited there's only 1 of her stories in each and they're both in other collections. In the case of the last, again, there's only one poem, which I may read separately, but probably won't list. I'm going to update my (brief) comments here, in case anyone is interested.
Wilkins' Tooth (1973) (aka Witch's Business)
The Ogre Downstairs (1974)
Eight Days of Luke (1975)
Cart and Cwidder (1975)
Power of Three (1976)
Drowned Ammet (1977)
Charmed Life (1977)
Who Got Rid of Angus Flint (1978) (in Stopping for a Spell)
The Magicians of Caprona (1980)
The Four Grannies (1980) (in Stopping for a Spell)
Time of the Ghost (1981)
The Homeward Bounders (1981)
Witch Week (1982)
Archer's Goon (1984)
Warlock at the Wheel (1984) (short story collection)
Fire and Hemlock (1985)
Howl's Moving Castle (1986)
A Tale of Time City (1987)
The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988)
Chair Person (1988) (in Stopping for a Spell)
Wild Robert (1989)
Castle in the Air (1990)
Black Maria (1991) (aka Aunt Maria)
A Sudden Wild Magic (1992)
Yes, Dear (1992)
The Crown of Dalemark (1993)
Everard's Ride (1995) (in Unexpected Magic)
Minor Arcana (1996) (short story collection)
Deep Secret (1997)
The Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998)
Puss in Boots (1999)
Mixed Magics (2000) (short story collection)
Year of the Griffin (2000)
The Merlin Conspiracy (2003)
(Unexpected Magic (2004))
Conrad's Fate (2005)
The Pinhoe Egg (2006)
The Game (2007)
House of Many Ways (2008)
Enchanted Glass (2010)
Earwig and the Witch (2011)
DWJ's first published book and the only one truly for adults.
Completely different from most of her fiction in many ways, but in the humour, very familiar.
It is the 60's and the small African country of Nmkwami (those who know a little Latin might spot a deliberate joke) is preparing for independence. Harold, a rather pathetic junior aide to the current Governor, brings up the question of how to appropriately mark the changeover. The Governor, however, completely fails to understand who this Mark Changeover could possibly be and why he needs to be executed. Within hours, the entire country is searching for the mysterious communist, anarchist, terrorist Mark (or is that Roger?) Changeover, to prevent him blowing up the forthcoming celebrations.
An extremely silly, but enjoyable and fast paced farse that, while recognisably a first novel, is still great fun to read.
1973: Wilkins' Tooth
This is one of the ones I borrowed from the library when I was at school and have only recently bought for myself as it's for younger readers (there are quite a few of these - particularly as a lot went out of print and have only been re-published over the last few years).
In order to raise a little pocket money over the holidays, Frank and Jess set up a business, "Own Back Ltd" - revenge arranged, price according to task. Unfortunately, their first job is for the local bully - to get a tooth from Vernon Wilkin, who dared to punch him back. It swiftly becomes very clear that they've let themselves in for a whole lot of trouble with someone who really shouldn't be meddled with.
This is what DWJ is so great at - original ideas, amusingly told, but topics that, if you stop for a bit, will make you think a bit. After all, does revenge ever really help anyone? This is not one of my favourites - mostly because the ending feels as though it needs a little bit more TLC, but it's still a fun read, with likable characters.
1974: The Ogre Downstairs
See the first paragraph for Wilkins' Tooth!
Caspar, Johnny and Gwinny are having a hard time accepting their new step family - in particular, their new father, the "Ogre" - after all, they were quite all right as they were before he and his two sons came along. In an apparent effort to win them round, the Ogre has given Johnny and his younger son a new chemistry set to play with. But this is no ordinary set of chemicals.
This is an interesting one - with 16+ years of repeatedly reading many of DWJ's novels, there are certainly some stock characters that come up - always likable, or suitably villainous, but nonetheless, recognisably from the same mold. This one is a bit different - the central kids are recognisable, but the rest of the family are more complicated and there's a lot more grey than there is in a lot of her books geared at younger children (although it abounds in those aimed at older readers). Again, the ending feels a little rushed, but (and you're just going to have to start taking this as read with all DWJ's books:) an enjoyably feel good story.
1975: Eight Days of Luke
To my mind, this is the point at which she starts to hit her stride.
David comes home for the summer holidays to stay with his unloving relatives. Unusually, they've failed to book him on an Educational Tour or into a Holiday Camp, so instead of being sent away again, he's stuck at home in a miserable household, with no other kids nearby to play with and expected to be grateful. But then the mysterious Luke turns up, claiming that David has released him from prison and needing his help to avoid the people who want to put him back there.
Messing around with the characters from Norse myth, DWJ takes the familiar Gods and makes them very much her own.
1975: Cart and Cwidder
Another one I originally borrowed from the library and fairly recently obtained (but I'm not sure when).
The first in the Dalemark Quartet, I think I actually read it third (this is what happened before the internet existed ;o)). I've always loved The Spellcoats, but the rest of the Dalemark Quarted grabbed me less. Funnily enough however, the more I read them, the more I enjoy them - I'm looking forward to coming to the rest of them again.
The story is of Moril and his family - travelling musicians who are amongst the few permitted to travel between the restricted South and the more open North - two parts of a country very close to war with each other. It is a happy life, but Moril can't wait to get home to the North, although he hadn't reckoned on his father picking up an irritating passenger en route. Not long after, tragedy strikes and their lives are turned upside down.
A very simple and, in some ways, introspective story, but no worse for that. How I would love to be able to play any instrument that way!
I did want to have somewhere where I'd summarised all her books though, so when people ask for recommendations, I can point them this way. I'll probably come back and edit at various stages, I can already spot some bad grammar!
I hope this helps you to fill in the gaps anyway... Which have you read?
I aim to review them all in time when I get round to re-reading them. Despite the occasional flaw I really think they get to the nub of traditional storytelling, satisfying at a lot of levels.
By the way, don't be shy about reviewing--I like what you've done with your notes, starting with a personal note, followed by a brief but succinct synopsis and then a qualitative assessment. If only more reviewers did that!
#7 Eveleen, I was reading an article DWJ wrote about her reasons for writing Fire and Hemlock and she said she didn't write female protagonists in the 1970s/80s because she felt boys at that time wouldn't read books with a female hero (whereas she felt girls would read books with a hero of either sex).
This webpage has some links at the bottom to the article but it's scanned in so it's not very easy to read. The relevant passage is at the beginning of the fourth link.
Thanks, souloftherose, that article is fascinating! I've bookmarked it to read again in more detail - it's really quite dense with references. I'm interested to see that she really wanted to write female heroes, and felt constrained by the conditions of the time. I like where she says "I sneaked a female hero past in Dogsbody by telling the story from the dog's point of view" - I'd been wondering how to count that particular story.
I'm rather staggered by how many of the references in Fire and Hemlock I've been missing: I always thought of it as the Tam Lin/Thomas the Rhymer book and missed the classical Odyssey/Cupid and Psyche references altogether. (Who is it who can hardly see and uses a bow?, indeed, Diana!)
Thanks again, that article is a real find.
I also read on the unofficial official website that they're planning to publish a collection of DWJ's articles and talks in 2012 which would hopefully include that article.
Re the DWJ, yes, I'll admit that I'm a little obsessive about her - there are certainly some works that I probably wouldn't read more than once or twice (I wasn't particularly a fan of Skiver's Guide for example), but when she gets it right, there really are few authors who I enjoy reading as much. She is definitely (with Jane Austen), my comfort read of choice!
#6 Thank you Rubbah - yes, I'll admit that that did cross my mind. I'll see how I go though, because I've a worry I'll read nothing but DWJ this year if I'm not careful! ;o)
#7 Hi EveleenM - yes, this is something I also noticed as I was growing up. Until recently, I also assumed it was something to do with the fact that her kids are boys (I'm sure that that didn't hurt). I couldn't help feeling though that, if not all the time, a lot of her books probably appeal more to girls than boys - but I may well be wrong in that, given that I am female...
#8 Hi Heather! Thanks for that link - I'd not come across it before, although I think I have heard her mention that argument. I shall look forward to reading the article...
Re #10 Yep, very much looking forward to that book - I've mostly only read her fiction, so it should be very interesting.
...Looking forward to getting to Fire and Hemlock - although actually, I'm shortly coming up to a lot of my favourites.
I've got two more books to comment on, but I'll put them in a new post:
This is amongst the first DWJ's that I read, so, while it is no longer one of my favourites and it's been quite a while since I last reread it, it does have a very special place in my memory.
Sirius, the Dogstar is on trial for the murder of a minor luminary and the loss of a Zoi. Found guilty, the judges pass an unusual sentence on him - to be transferred to the body of a creature of the planet on which the Zoi was thought to be lost, with the task of finding it, within the space of that creature's natural lifespan.
The next he knows, Sirius awakes confused and blurry in the body of a newborn puppy. He is rescued from drowning by a young Irish girl, Kathleen, staying with unkind or indifferent relatives in England, while her father is in jail back in Ireland, on terrorism charges.
I should reread this one more often - I always forget how much I like it because of the animal angle (I'm not usually a fan of anthropomorphised animals). A meloncholy story, but also a heart-warming one (I don't know why, I hate the description "heart-warming" - probably because it is overused - but it does fit in this case, so I shall use it whilst cringing.
1976: Power of Three
One of my favourites.
Gair is the middle son of the heroic Gest and wise Adara. His elder sister and younger brother both have remarkable gifts and he feels himself to be the only one in his family to be boring and normal.
But the moor on which his people live is under threat - and not just from the terrifying Giants and slippery Dorig with whom they unwillingly share it, but from a death curse, the result of a foolish and unforgivable act of his unpleasant uncle Orban when he was also a child. Gair seems to be the only one who can see that something needs to be done.
One of the many things I liked about DWJ was her talent for writing truly likable characters and an ability to pull you emotionally into the story with them. She can also make a point subtly - so that you don't even realise it's being made. In this case, it's that people aren't always what they seem and we shouldn't judge them before we understand them. I know I didn't notice this point being made when I read this first as a child, but I'm sure that it seeped in undercover of a wonderful read, nonetheless...
Second in the Dalemark series. When he's small, Mitt's parents, unable to keep up with rising taxes, have to give up their farm and move to Holand, the capital of South Dalemark. His father moved there a year earlier to get work and has become involved with a group of freedom fighters angry with a despotic ruler, but is killed not long after his family join them. Mitt grows up more or less on the streets, supporting his feckless mother, old before his time and determined to revenge his father. Becoming involved with the same freedom fighters as his father, he and his mother plot their revenge.
Hildy and her brother grow up in very much more privilaged circumstances, but equally unable to control their own future. Chance brings the tree together.
It's quite hard to sum up this book without giving away the story and I'm not doing a very good job, so I'll leave it there. This is my least favourite of the quartet as it's a little bit slow moving, but once it does, it's quite a thoughtful book, all the central characters having to examine their perception of the world in which they live and the people that they know.
1977: Charmed Life
My memory was fooling me when I said I first read this when I was 7 - I must have been 9. Still, quite a long time ago now and the first I read. My school teacher was reading to us from a book called I Like This Story (a collection of extracts from various children's books) and I fell in love with this one and had to read what happened next. It was probably the perfect age at which to stumble on to DWJ.
Cat Chant and his sister Gwendolin have been orphaned in a tragic boating accident. Gwendolin didn't drown, because she is a witch. Cat didn't drown, because he was clinging to Gwendolin - something he continues to do. They go to live with their neighbour Mrs Sharp, but Gwendolin has ambitions and manages to convince the mysterious and important Chrestomanci to adopt them as part of her plan.
If I struggle to be balanced about DWJ at the best of times, I'm never going to manage it with Charmed Life, which, while not in my top 5 DWJ list, has many extremely fond memories attached to it. I love her gentle humour - she was such a wonderful storyteller. There is though, one thing about Charmed Life that never sat very well with me - and that is Gwendolin. I can handle the blacker than black villans DWJ writes, even though most of the time I prefer a few more shades of grey. However, I just don't like that Gwendolin can treat her own brother the way she does - it never sits comfortably. Neither does Janet's decision regarding her future at the end of the book. Both easy enough to wash over with my love of the rest of the story however...
1978: Who Got Rid of Angus Flint? (within Stopping for a Spell)
The unpleasant Angus Flint comes to stay with Candida and her family and won't go away. Drastic measures must be taken!
A silly but fun little children's story.
Third in the Dalemark Quartet, although chronologically the first - and my favourite.
Tanaqui and her family have lived their lives by the River - outsiders due to their blonde hair and different religious beliefs. When war arrives, in the shape of a King expecting the service of all able bodied men and swiftly followed by a fever killing many of those not killed fighting, the village starts to turn on them. Tanaquai and her siblings escape down the river by boat, not knowing where they will end up. They soon become emeshed in a power struggle for the spirit of the River himself.
Imperfect central characters - I think that this is one of the best features of DWJ's books. I don't want my leads to be perfect. Real people make mistakes and do and say foolish things. Spellcoats is told in the first person - Tanaqui weaves two rugs telling her tale and you see her petty squabbles with her siblings and the silly things that she says, mistakes she makes and this just makes her more believable and one of my favourite DWJ heroines.
I haven't read The Spellcoats yet either, but found The Crown of Dalemark perfectly understandable even though The Spellcoats apparently fills out the background to the nature of the demiurges of Dalemark.
Still, I'm looking forward to reading the third book, although I'm going to review the fourth first!
PS I've also reviewed (in some depth, alas) the first two in the Dalemark series (in the one-volume edition) here, if anyone's interested: http://www.librarything.com/work/book/75096898
Really enjoyed this, though in a different way to the others in the quartet.
Still looking forward to update of The Magicians of Caprona to Warlock at the Wheel, flissp! No pressure, though...
I've been very bad about checking in to LT recently, so am very behind the times with my comments (not just for DWJ...). I'm currently reading The Lives of Christopher Chant, which is in my top 5 of her books (woo!), but afraid I currently only have a few to update on (see below!)
This is one of my favourites. The Montana and Petrocchi families - famed throughout Caprona and the rest of Italy for the quality of their spells - have been fighting for decades. But recently, even their spells have lost their edge, something the visiting Chrestomanci thinks is due to a malevolent enemy enchanter. At the same time, Tonino Montana and Angelica Petrocchi, the youngest of each family, go missing - lured away somewhere by the same enchanted book.
This is now marketed as one of the Chrestomanci series, although, as in Witch Week, he has a fairly small roll. It’s really Tonino’s story - the youngest Montana, a voracious reader who thinks he’s boring and normal, unlike the rest of his brilliant family. It’s a simple story, owing a nod of the head to Romeo and Juliet, but it’s well told with lots of lovely characters.
A ghost finds herself walking down a familiar road. Something is wrong, but she doesn’t know what it is. Who is she? Why does she think that something terrible has happened?
One of her spookier stories, partly because it’s more or less set in the real world, unlike most of them. Also, perhaps geared towards a slightly older audience than usual. An unusual ghost story with some very satisfying twists and turns. The family of girls that it centres on are all very extreme characters and I’ve always wondered, given what I’ve read about her, how much of their childhood is informed by DWJ’s own.
Jaimie stumbles, or should I say trespasses, into the grounds of a mysterious house in his home town in which men in hooded cloaks appear to be playing some sort of strange game on a table - one that causes the world around him to lurch. When discovered, they cast him out of ‘the game’ and he becomes a homeward bounder, travelling between parallel universes, with the unlikely to be realised promise that if he can ever find his way back to his home, he will be allowed to reenter the game.
To say why I enjoy this particular story so much would unfortunately be to give a hint towards the ending, so I won’t. However, I will say that it’s a clever plot, with all DWJ’s trademark oddball characters. I’ve always liked that she’s unafraid to have her lead characters do silly things and make stupid mistakes - after all, we all do in real life.
Apparently, quite a lot.
I will say that it’s a clever plot, with all DWJ’s trademark oddball characters.
I agree it's a clever plot, but I found it a little hard to engage with, I must admit. It also seemed a little open-ended at the conclusion, which also left me a little unsatisfied.
Just realized that I've never read The Time of the Ghost, so I have something to look forward to!
It's worth reading this in tandem with The Time of the Ghost
Also there's an enlightening story in her collection Unexpected Magic called 'The Girl Jones' which reads like fiction but seems to be largely factual.
1980: The Magicians of Caprona
This is one of my favourites.
Well, flissp, this too (on my second reading) is one of my favourites, certainly in the Chrestomanci series, though (as you say) he himself has a small (though I think significant) role to play, especially as this sets the scene for Tonino's appearance in Stealer of Souls in Mixed Magics which was republished as a standalone for World Book Day a few years later.
I've done a (rather too long) review myself, where I go on at length about the cultural resonances, but really the story stands on its own two feet. I liked the consistent view of the protagonist as 'the least who can be best' that DWJ re-visits in her stories about Christopher, Cat and Conrad. I did however have to draw a family tree to get my head round all Tonino and Paolo's relatives, though obviously it didn't matter as I didn't bother on the first reading!
#29 You see, I rather like open ended conclusions (provided they're not due to gaping plot holes) - they leave you with all sorts of possibilities for what could have happened next! In fact, this is one of the reasons I've always particularly liked Homeward Bounders - **SPOILER ALERT**
#30 It's been a while now, so have you tracked Time of the Ghost down? ;o)
#31 Thanks for the link Ed, I have come across that site before, but hadn't read the biography section as I tend to shy away from biographies of people who are still living. I must take a look.
Re "The Girl Jones", yes, I rather enjoyed that one, I agree it's quite enlightening. Another one that seems pretty autobiographical (if very different from her normal themes is "Nad and Dan adn Quaffy" - it's in a couple of her short story collections including Unexpected Magic, so you'll probably have come across it? I'm sure that one of the many reasons why I enjoy DWJ so much is that her personality can't help seeping through into what she writes...
#32 Yes, I was very pleased to read "Stealer of Souls" - Tonino was always one of my favourite characters when I was little.
I agree re the story standing on its own two feet - I think the same could be said for pretty much all her books, to a greater or lesser degree, to be honest though. I've always felt that it was more of a publisher's decision to describe them as a series - it seems to me that it was more that DWJ particularly enjoyed certain characters (and I know Chrestomanci was a favourite), so couldn't help returning to them. But maybe that's just my imagination!
Larwood House is a school with a very high intake of Witches' orphans in a world where witches are still burned at the stake (if not in public any more). Charles, Nan and Brian are widely unpopular for different reasons, so when someone leaves a note for the teacher stating that someone in their class is a witch, suspicion within the class and amongst the teachers falls on them.
Before anyone makes any Harry Potter comparisons, let me say that Witch Week preceded Harry Potter by 9 years and there really is no comparison, other than that it's set in a school and there are witches involved! I say this because, for some reason, people always do seem to make the comparison.
Anyway, it's an interesting one, again, latterly added to the Chrestomanci series (and would work as a stand alone) as Chrestomanci is brought in towards the end (almost a deus ex machina), to help out four young witches on the lam. Another of the ones I've read quite a few times (partly because it's one of my oldest), even the unlikeable characters are sympathetic. Sometimes DWJ's villans are very black and white (Magicians of Caprona being an example). Here, there are no real villans (unless it is society at large) - when she wants to, she is very good at showing you that most people have reasons for the way they act, even if on the surface they seem unreasonable. This is a particularly good example of that and I like it all the more for the grey.
1984: Archer's Goon
Probably one of DWJ's most loved novels.
Howard and Aweful (real name Anthea) come home to find the Goon in their kitchen. He says he's there for their father's 2,000, which is late. Fortunately, the 2,000 turn out to be words, not pounds. Unfortunately, the late words don't seem to be good enough. Howard and his family discover that the Goon works for Archer, one of a family of seven, who appear to run the entire town in which they live. One of the siblings is somehow using Howard's fathers words to keep all of the others from leaving the town and they are none of them happy about it.
This is one of those stories that somehow hits all the right emotional buttons - particularly if you're still growing up when you read it (which I was). Somehow, it's also one of DWJ's books that is more grounded in reality that many of her others, despite a very unreal plot. You could be Howard and, for someone who grew up wishing that magic was real, this is why it has such a big appeal.
1984: Warlock at the Wheel
Short story collection: Warlock at the Wheel; The Plague of Peacocks; The Fluffy Pink Toadstool; Aunt Bea's Day Out; Carruthers; No One; Dragon Reserve, Home Eight; The Sage of Theare.
- What happened next to the Willing Warlock after his magic was taken away from him (at the end of Charmed Life.
- Interfering neighbours get their comeupance via a small four year old boy.
- A mother goes through a "natural" craze (not one of her best stories).
- The annoying Aunt Bea gets herself, her nieces and nephew stuck on a travelling island.
- Slightly more disturbing than most of the stories in this book, Caruthers is about an animate, moody walking stick.
- A robot named No One helps save the day, through failing to do anything right.
- Dragon Reserve, Home Eight, has Anne McCaffrey tendencies (albeit written in an entirely different style), although here, "hegs" (witches) are villified by the home worlds, dragons still come to save the day - I would have quite liked this one to be continued.
- The Sage of Theare is one that, for some reason, I can never quite warm to. A boy born to disrupt the status quo, growing up running in circles trying to follow the Sage of Disillusionment.
1985: Fire and Hemlock
Diana Wynne Jones' version of the Tam Lin story, mixed with Thomas the Rhymer.
As Polly tries to pack for college, a book and a picture nudge a set of memories that seem to run parallel to the memories she has lived with for the last five years. Reality overlaps with a fictional invented world. Who is Tom Lin and why does he seem to have been written out of Polly's life?
This is one that gets better every time you read it. The first time, I remember being very confused at the end of the book, although I can't quite see why now. I think I must have been a little too young when I came across it. A very DWJish retelling! Makes you question the traditional role of Hero.
Must give Archer's Goon another go: after your review I think I may have seriously underestimated it!
Warlock at the Wheel is one I don't have, though I recognise many of the story titles from other collections, notably Mixed Magics and Unexpected Magic. I'll have to do a check to see if I'm missing out!
#37 Thanks! I shall try to be more efficient!
Re Archer's Goon, I hope you enjoy it more next time round, although I wonder if half the reason that I love it so much is that I first read it in my early teens, so it resonates with that time for me.
Re Warlock at the Wheel, yes, all her short story collections overlap quite a lot (being released at very different times). You can find all the stories in Warlock at the Wheel in her other collections. I've noted down all the short stories in each collection in my DWJ Library here if you're interested.
I suppose it depends on when and where they were republished. Unexpected Magic I bought in the States, but I don't think it's ever been published here in the UK.
I usually check out the fansite for book details (http://www.leemac.freeserve.co.uk/warlockatwheel.htm for Warlock at the Wheel), but only occasionally the DWJ Wiki--I suppose I should use this more. I've tried subscribing to the suberic site, but find the process of accessing and contributing not very user-friendly and have since unsubscribed.
Especially looking forward to your view of Everard's Ride, which I still think was a mistake to include in the collection. Not because it's weak (because it certainly isn't) but because as a novella it doesn't really fit in with the other short stories.
I'm inclined to agree with you though, Everard's Ride doesn't really fit in with the rest of Unexpected Magics - but then, I'd say that it doesn't really fit in with most of the rest of her work - it always felt like a bit of an anomoly to me. To be honest, I think she's written better.
Sophie is the eldest of three girls and her father wasn't even a poor woodcutter, so she's always known she would never have adventures - her step-mother isn't even evil. When her father dies just as she's about to leave school, she takes on her responsibilites in the family buisness (a hat shop) with a resigned heart. However, when the Witch of the Waste comes by the shop and casts a spell that ages her, Sophie decides that it's time she set out to find her fortune. Maybe the Wizard Howl (who is rumoured to eat the hearts of young girls) will be able to help - if the Witch of the Waste doesn't get him first...
A firm favourite - challenges all those fairy tale rules and turns preconceptions on their head with her trademark understated humour. It doesn't matter how many times I read this, it always makes me chuckle out loud and Howl, Sophie and Calcifer the fire demon are probably my favourite DWJ characters.
A note to anyone who has seen the Miyazaki film: really, beyond the basic storyline of Sophie being turned into an old lady, going in search of her fortune and bumping into Howl, there is very little similarity. Howl is much more brilliantly arrogant and flamboyant and much less petulant in the book than the film, the Witch of the Waste much more vicious and less mischevious. I will add that I still very much enjoyed the film and think that Miyazaki's Witch is absolutely brilliant. It's just a shame that Howl and Sophie become a bit drippy and that Howl becomes some sort of bird thing rather than just Welsh!
1987: A Tale of Time City
Vivien Smith is being evacuated from WWII London when she is whisked away by two boys who mistake her for the mysterious Time Lady, who they believe to be to blame for the anomolies appearing throughout history and the cracks appearing in Time City (a city outside of time, set up to police history) itself. Their mistake soon becomes clear and Vivian gets drawn into helping them try to save Time City.
A stand alone, while I wouldn't class this amongst my favourites, or a book that got me thinking particularly, it does have some wonderfully visual moments, both comic (in particular) and sad.
1988: The Lives of Christopher Chant
We're getting to the books I read as they came out now. I can remember buying this in (a now non-existant) branch of Heffers just after we moved to Cambridge.
This is the story of Christopher Chant, (aka Chrestomanci)'s childhood, the discovery of his nine lives and his coming to terms with his responsibilities.
Another favourite, Christopher Chant is such a wonderfully flawed hero, that you can't help liking him and there are so many characters in this book that you want to know more about.
In "Reflections", DWJ states that it was important for her to know all her characters ins and outs - as long as this is the case, even if she didn't write much about them, she felt that their personalities would come across and this is completely true.
1988: Chair Person (contained in Stopping for a Spell)
Another young children's story in which a battered old armchair turns into a person. The last of the stories in this collection. It's fun, but these are aimed at a younger audience, so don't have a lot of depth or bear rereading quite as much as her others do, although her humour shines through as ever.
1989: Wild Robert
Heather lives with her parents in a stately home open to the public - trying to escape all the tourists, she finds the mound in the garden under which Wild Robert, a witch, was burried many years ago. When she accidentally calls him up, he unleashes chaos. Great fun.
1990: Castle In the Air
The sequel to Howl's Moving Castle (although it can be read as a stand alone) centres around Abdullah, a daydreaming carpet seller in the market of Zanzib who buys a magic carpet from a mysterious salesman and suddenly finds all his daydreams coming true.
I was a bit disappointed the first time I read this - after all, Howl's Moving Castle is one of her best. However, I've enjoyed it more with each reread - it's maybe a little whimsicle, but there's a lot of humour there and it's good to see Howl again!
1991: Black Maria
Mig and her family go to stay with their father's Aunt Maria when he dies in a car accident, but there's something funny going on in the town of Cranberry on Sea - all the men act like zombies, the only children act like clones and live in an orphanage and the town seems to be run by a group of women, led by Aunt Maria herself.
One of the interesting things about reading these in succession is seeing her common themes develop through the books - in this case, people not being what they seem to be and unusual families. There are inklings of A Tale of Time City and Hexwood in this one. It's one of her books aimed at younger readers, but unlike the stories in Stopping For a Spell, there's a lot going on. Something I don't think I'd spotted before is that her protagonists are almost always very practical doers - one of Mig's comments: "But it's no good thinking happy endings just happen". It seems like a good rule of thumb to me!
Re The Merlin Conspiracy, actually, I really like it was one of the re-reads I'd been looking forward to most (partly because I've only read it once before, being fairly recent). Enjoyed it just as much this time round, although it also frustrates me a little because there's no mention of Maree or Rupert at all and I would have liked a name check. This said, this time round I could see why they were left out as more information about them would have required more information about Magids and could have sent the feel of the book in a different direction.
#50 If you're still around ed, thanks and I completely agree.
"Some of you may have already spotted the exciting news announced on Publishers Weekly yesterday, but just in case you haven’t, we’re delighted to announce that there will be a new Diana Wynne Jones book published in Spring next year, called The Islands of Chaldea!"
The Publishers Weekly details (http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/articl...) tells us that "The book, left unfinished by Diana, has been completed by her sister Ursula Jones, who is a successful children’s author and actress in her own right."
The ISBN is 978-0-00-754223-9 according to HarperCollins: http://www.harpercollins.co.uk/Titles/85286/the-islands-of-chaldea-diana-wynne-j...
Ursula Jones has her own website: http://www.ursulajones.co.uk/index.html