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Minor Arcana (1996)

por Diana Wynne Jones

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1754148,071 (3.59)5
Collected together for the first time are six stories and a novella which demonstrate the superb skills, the style and humour of award-winning fantasist Diana Wynne Jones.
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I wanted to love this book. Short stories have such potential, and Jones has such power in her writing as a general rule. But I found that these typically fell flat - that they weren't the stories that she necessarily wanted told, but that they need writing so that she could get on to the next thing. Or maybe they were the indulgences that she allowed herself between writing semi-successful populist literature.

Either way, I struggled. I struggled with most of the stories, and the very last (novella length, I'm guessing) I struggled the most. A tedious story, with no obvious redeeming features, and characters that it seemed the author fell more in love with as the story progressed, as I came more and more to have no sympathy for any other than the viewpoint character.

Having said that, there are some interesting conceits. 'What the Cat Told Me' has a great underlying idea, and the denouement wouldn't work without the rambling that happens before. "The Sage Of Theare', for all that it has metaphysical underpinnings, and a setting in the world of Chrestomanci just irritated me, and the weird tech hate/gender hate of 'nad and Dan adn Quaffy' just about had me rehoming the book unfinished.

This one quite likely to be rehomed. ( )
  fred_mouse | Aug 18, 2017 |
I had read nearly all of the stories in this collection before (and didn't reread them), with the exception of "The True State of Affairs".

It's a novella in the form of the diary of an imprisoned young English woman who has somehow ended up in another world, where she has been mistaken for someone else. (It's set in Dalemark, or perhaps a proto-Dalemark, kind of like how The Hobbit isn't set in quite the same Middle-earth as The Lord of the Rings is.)

Emily describes her imprisonment, her interactions with her jailors and the other prisoner, and what she knows about the conflict unfolding beyond the castle's walls. It's surprising gripping, partly because of the circumstances and partly because of the vividness of Emily's voice. I found parts of it disquieting - but I was hooked.

And then I was intensely disappointed by the abrupt ending.

And yet, that the ending felt true to the story, and that felt important. Especially for a story that is about truth.

When I got this paper, I had a fancy that I would write great things and spend my pends discovering truths. I would love to. I have a feeling that truths are gathering at the back of my head, ready to burst through. But they will not burst. The dreary trivia of prison air are too much for them. I am bound to the minute perpetually, and, besides, I am not one of those who finds it easy to think in grand abstractions, and I find it even more difficult to set them down clearly. ( )
  Herenya | Jan 18, 2017 |
This is a signed copy of a collection of short stories that Diana Wynne Jones compliled with an explanation of how she came to write and publish them. Content:
- Introduction
1. The Sage of Theare - a Chrestomanci short story in which a Sage of Dissolution is born into an orderly world run by Gods that do not want change. They try to stop the prophecy coming true by taking the boy to another world, but the prophecies efficiently happen anyway, and Chrestomanci steps in to save the day!
2. The Master - dream about an experiment with wolves gone wrong
3. The girl who loved the sun - an origin myth about the beech tree
4. Dragon reserve, home eight - Science fiction/fantasy story of a universe where the dragonate, protectors of a number of planets, also carry out witch hunts to find and execute Hegs - people with special abilities. One dragonate party arrives on the matriarchal world of Home eight to follow up reports of a Heg girl, but end up needing her help and the help of the dragons on the local dragon reserve to repel the Thrallers - slavers who enthrall their captives with their special abilities
5. What the cat told me - amusing tale of an enchanted & enchanting cat trapped into service to an old magician along with a young red-headed boy. The cat and boy become good friends and help each other escape the magician's power.
6. nad and Dan adn Quaffy - Typing mistakes as inspiration for parallel universe adventure for a writer who is contacted through her wordprocessor by a rebellious slave in a matriarchal universe.
7. The true state of affairs - a novella - set in Dalemark, but without any characters I recognized from the quartet. Written in an interesting style in which a woman, Emily, from England has been held captive in a tower and through her diary relates her experience and relationship with Asgrim held prisoner across the way. I enjoyed the developing story, but the end was rather unsatisfactory, as there is no clue as to what she did after she learns Asgrim has escaped, taken control of the lands and married Hilda, whom had duped Emily in the first place to become captured. I understand that the novella was based on Emily's diary and the story ended obviously when she stopped writing, but would have been nice to know how she even got there in the first place and if there was any way she could leave. Oh well, it had its moments. ( )
  LindaLiu | Feb 21, 2015 |
This book contains a number of short stories and one novella. The bulk of it was compelling reading as always. The novella felt like it should have really been a novel because the end was unsatisfyingly abrupt. ( )
  allisongryski | Dec 14, 2007 |
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Collected together for the first time are six stories and a novella which demonstrate the superb skills, the style and humour of award-winning fantasist Diana Wynne Jones.

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