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Jonesing for a Good Read: What Makes Diana Wynne Jones Magical

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl’s Castle – From the Miyazaki film

Diana Wynne Jones is one of the authors I foist on everyone who asks for a fantasy reading recommendation. Because I didn’t discover her work until I was well into my twenties (thanks to the Miyazaki film version of HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE), I try to make up for lost time and spread the word of an author whose works deserve to be widely read.

My relationship with HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE is a bit backwards. Usually, I seek out the book before watching the movie, but I didn’t in this case. Howl, a tortured wizard with a penchant for snazzy dressing and a weakness for hair dye, was the perfect animated hero. Sophie was also a nuanced heroine with a tinge of sadness so common in Miyazaki films, and Calcifer just cracked me up. I ended up loving the film and I knew I had to read the book.

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Posted by on March 21, 2013 in Author: Diana Wynne Jones, Fantasy, Tribute

 

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Wyrd Sisters: A Discworld Novel by Terry Pratchett

Wyrd Sisters is one of Terry Pratchett’s earlier Discworld novels, focusing on his cast of witches: Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick. The three, at Magrat’s prodding, have formed something of a coven, and meet every so often to do what Magrat considers are witchy things (like chanting over a cauldron).

Witches in the Discworld universe are generally solitary (except for when they are apprentices to a more experienced witch), and shirk structure, unlike the wizards at Unseen University. Overall, Pratchett’s witches tend to lead quiet lives and don’t have a designated leader.

Among them, Granny Weatherwax was “the most highly-regarded of the leaders they didn’t have.” She’s also disinclined to admit when she’s wrong, bears a grudge like a cat (although she hates cats), and has a habit for shelling peas at inopportune times. Nanny, on the other hand, has had five husbands, more children than she can count, and an inclination for getting hammered and singing inappropriate songs about hedgehogs and wizards’ staffs. Magrat, plain and unworldly, wants only to be a proper witch, with all the occult accoutrement that comes with it, whether her fellow witches like it or not.

If it weren’t for events outside of their control, Granny, Nanny, and Magrat would likely have continued along quietly, with the occasional arguments about whose turn it was to make the tea. When they find themselves unwittingly responsible for Lancre’s infant heir to the throne, Granny realizes that fate has aimed its beady eye at them. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Author: Terry Pratchett, Fantasy

 

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Remembering Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones died on March 26, 2011. She was only 76. Since then I’ve been mentally composing and uncomposing various tributes to her, one of my favorite novelists. What could I write that would be equal to the person who inspired me to pursue writing?

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Wee-Views: The Ring of Solomon and The Merlin Conspiracy

The to-read pile continues to grow (and I have yet to pick up this book club’s selection, A Discovery of Witches, probably because some of the reviews make me feel slightly frightened) and I have an ever growing pile of books that need to be reviewed. So I make some headway and so I feel at least slightly accomplished, I’m writing Wee-Views of some of these books. I’m going to skip all the plot summaries (you can read those on Amazon.com or any other online book site) and cut right to my opinions. I’ll also rate these on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being exceptionally good). Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell has been sitting on my bookshelf, in all its hardcover glory, since 2004, when it was first released. I bought it without having read any extracts, on the strength of its reviews alone (as well as Neil Gaiman’s flattering blurb). I did not, however, have the physical strength to hold up this 800-page doorstop long enough to read it and not concuss myself, so it’s languished and collected dust, ever since. Until, of course, I decided to download the Kindle sample and read a few lines, and was annoyed that I hadn’t gotten around to reading it sooner in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2011 in Author: Susanna Clarke, Fantasy, Literature

 

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Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones

Year of the Griffin is the sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm, and takes place 8 years after Mr. Chesney’s tours have ended. Wizard Derk’s youngest daughter, Elda, is now at the Wizard’s University and finding her talons full of magical mayhem. The university itself is in dire financial straits. Now that the tours have stopped, along with Mr. Chesney’s payments, the university has considerably less money than it is used to, and turns to its students’ parents for aid. Unfortunately, these aren’t typical students with proud parents, and a number are on the run from their families. When the letters reach their homes, the students find themselves battling trained assassins and pirates, to say nothing of ineffable grading curves, incompetent professors, inedible refectory food, heartbreak, and renegade griffins. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones is one of my very favorite authors, so this review of Dark Lord of Derkholm (which now officially one of my favorite DWJ books) will be somewhat biased (although I haven’t loved everything I’ve read by her, but I’ve never hated anything either). What I love best about her work is her uncanny ability to transport her readers to a different, fully-realized world. Not only does she take you there, but you want to curl up and take up residence—DWJ’s stories are never truly over. Even after you turn the page, you suspect that there is much more to the story, and you want to linger there long after she’s concluded her tale. To me, that’s what separates good stories from great ones. She also populates her stories with great characters—flawed, but memorable and sympathetic. There’s no sense in having a wonderfully detailed world, if the reader hates everyone that lives there. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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