Thursday, March 13, 2014

DWJ Month: Let's celebrate Diana Wynne Jones!

It's Diana Wynne Jones month, you say? Who says? Who decides these things? Well, in this case it's Kristen at We Be Reading, who is going to have a DWJ post EVERY DAY this month. I salute her boundless energy and ambition! My ambitious plan is to read all Kristen's posts so that I can be reminded of DWJ books I haven't read for a while (or at all), and then read as many of those books as I can this month. And I might post once or twice about them.

This is great fun because I love rereading books when it's been long enough that I don't remember what happens in them. That was the case with Time of the Ghost and House of Many Ways.

House of Many Ways is a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle. Sophie and Howl show up as supporting characters in several very amusing scenes, but the heroine is the quietly stubborn Charmain, who would really rather be reading a book, thank you very much, but if she absolutely has to go take care of her great uncle's house while he is being treated by elves for a strange illness, then fine, at least it gets her away from her annoying parents. Little does she know what she's getting herself in for! I love the house, which similar to Howl's castle in its space-bending magic, but with its own personality and rules. I love Charmain's relationship with the unexpected apprentice who is rubbish at magic. (Charmain echoes Sophie's way of dealing with magical disasters: you just have to tell things very firmly what you want them to do!) I have a special spot of affection for the well-meaning King and Princess, who are doing their very best even though they have no idea what's going on under their very noses. I don't think it's too spoilery to say that the villains get a very satisfying comeuppance at the end!  A bit quieter and lighter than Howl's Moving Castle, but the same world, the same magic, the same fun.

Time of the Ghost has an entirely different feel to it: spooky and twisty, more like Fire and Hemlock or Hexwood, except for a slightly younger audience. It's a book that I don't want to spoil by revealing anything about the plot, because nothing is as it seems and you figure things out at the same time as the narrator does. I will say that DWJ gets the experience of being a ghost down perfect.* And I'll also say that this book convinced me never to participate in a seance or pretend to worship an imaginary ancient being: you never know what you might inadvertently awaken! (Reminds me of Verdigris Deep, by Francis Hardinge: better not wish on a wishing well, either!) There's some beautiful landscape description in this book, and it's also very interesting to read it after reading DWJ's autobiography, since many aspects of the family are taken from her own childhood (a rather terrifying thought).

*Because I totally know what that's like.

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