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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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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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The Gates by John Connolly

The Gates is suspense writer John Connolly’s first foray into young adult fiction writing. While his previous entry The Book of Lost Things featured a young adult, that book’s overall tone is far too dark for the category. The Gates, on the other hand, is an effervescent romp that combines science, religion, urban fantasy, and a generous helping of humor. It reminds me of Good Omens (by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman), without the heavy satire. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2010 in Author: John Connolly, Fantasy, Young Adult

 

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The Old Kingdom Trilogy by Garth Nix

I stumbled upon The Old Kingdom Trilogy (Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen) by accident one day while browsing Amazon and wondering where I would satisfy by Diana Wynne Jones yen. What I found was a bit different, but no less satisfying.

Reading these books is like jumping into the deep end of the pool feet first and hoping you’ll swim. The author doesn’t draw you in gently–you’re immediately immersed in the Old Kingdom’s alternate universe and have to patch together your knowledge of this world’s magical system. I found myself scratching my head often throughout Sabriel, the first book, wondering about the differences between Charter Magic and Free Magic, but eventually found myself slowly figuring it out as I became drawn into Nix’s world. The sequels, Lirael and Abhorsen, spell out the magical systems in more explicit detail, particularly the birth of the Old Kingdom, but Nix isn’t the type of author to lead his readers by the hand. Still, if you read carefully, the Old Kingdom Trilogy is a rich and rewarding experience. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2010 in Author: Garth Nix, Fantasy, Young Adult

 

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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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