Review: House of Many Ways & Enchanted Glass, Diana Wynne Jones

I love Diana Wynne Jones, and because I have not told you why I love her with sufficient vehemence or frequency, I will tell you why right now.  It is because her characters discover things about themselves!  They discover things, and they learn!  Glorious!  People in her books proceed by instinct and guesswork, and although these are not my own preferred means of proceeding, I like it that Diana Wynne Jones’s characters succeed.  Their approach to magic is beautifully matter-of-fact.  People can learn to do magic better, or more specifically, from teachers; but at a fundamental level, and often very successfully, they do it by instinct.  Charmain in House of Many Ways says “Pipes!  Freeze!”, and they do it.

House of Many Ways is about a sheltered girl called Charmain who only wants to sit and read.  Her family sends her to care for the house of her grandfather while he goes away to be healed by the elves.  There are piles and piles of dirty laundry there, and a kitchen full of dirty dishes, and Charmain, without the first idea of how to do regular household chores, settles for reading books and learning how to do magic and helping the king and princess organize their library.  Unlike in most books where the protagonist likes to read and her parents wish she would desist, Charmain’s reading has served her ill in some ways (well, that and her mother’s determination that she should be Privileged).  She’s incapable of doing regular chores like laundry and dishes and cooking, which gives rise to much mockery by a boy called Peter who comes to stay at her grandfather’s house to be his apprentice.

Oh, and Howl and Sophie make an appearance.  And Calcifer.  Howl and Sophie and Calcifer and Morgan all make an appearance.  Though the book is not about them, and I do not feel there is enough of them, they are their usual delightful selves.  More Sophie!  More Sophie and Howl!

Other reviews:

Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog
Becky’s Book Reviews

In more recent news, Enchanted Glass is about a professor called Andrew who inherits a house from HIS grandfather.  Having failed to reach his grandfather in time to get instructions as to how to care for the magical area over which his grandfather held dominion, Andrew has to figure out how to care for it his own self.  His memory is helped by the arrival of a young boy called Aidan, who is running away from Social Workers and scary magical monsters.  There is a cantankerous old neighbor who seems obsessed with barbed-wire fences, Security, and what he calls “counterparts”.  I could have done with more cool glass-related magic, but otherwise I was very happy with it.  The glass is plainly the glass from Deep Secret, by the way – I’m glad she found a use for that glass, which did not get any real (as opposed to theoretical) play in Deep Secret.

Diana Wynne Jones!  I love you!  Live forever!

Other reviews:

Charlotte’s Library

Did I miss yours?  Surely I missed some reviews of Enchanted Glass!  Tell me if I missed yours!

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19 thoughts on “Review: House of Many Ways & Enchanted Glass, Diana Wynne Jones

  1. These sound like great books! So far, I have only read Howl’s Moving Castle, but it sounds as though I need to read these books as well. Great double review. These books are going on my list! Thanks!!

    • Oh, if you’ve only read Howl’s Moving Castle, you should hit up Castle in the Air. It’s got some of the same characters making appearances, and I think it’s quite charming. House of Many Ways comes after that, but I wouldn’t think it’s super-crucial to read them in order.

    • They’re her two newest ones, that’s maybe why you haven’t heard of them. I was glad I ended up enjoying them – I wasn’t crazy about the book before this one, The Pinhoe Egg.

  2. I too adore Diana Wynne Jones. I know many fans of Howl were disappointed by House of Many Ways, but I thought it was pretty fabulous. I’ve never read a true ‘sequel’ by DWJ, though admittedly I haven’t read all of her work, either. But I guess I didn’t expect all Howl all the time, and I was very happy to read Charmain’s story. Now I must read Enchanted Glass!

    • Were they disappointed? Not enough Howl in it for them?

      Diana Wynne Jones doesn’t really do that many traditional sequels. Actually I don’t think she’s done any. She has books with overlapping characters, but no sequels in the sense I think of it, with one book a continuation of another book’s story.

  3. It’s a toss-up with cameos of favorite characters, for me. Of course I want to see them again, but it’s never satisfying! If they are exactly the same as they were in the last book, I think, “Why haven’t you changed?” and if they *have* changed, I feel cheated by not having been taken along through the process.

    The laundry and mess made a bigger impression on me than Charmain, in this book!

    I have not read Enchanted Glass! I didn’t know it had come out! Do you recommend rereading Deep Secret first?

    • I know what you mean about the cameos – but I generally like them. I always think it’s fun when someone was previously a point-of-view character, and we get to see them from someone else’s perspective. Howl’s exactly the same whoever’s looking at him, but Sophie is quite different from Charmain’s perspective (or Abdullah’s in Castle in the Air) than she was in her own mind in Howl’s Moving Castle.

      Sorry, that reference to the glass was misleading. Enchanted Glass isn’t a sequel/companion book to Deep Secret, not even set in the same universe. There’s some strange, twisty glass in Deep Secret, which the protagonist Maree says is plainly magical, but nothing happens with it. Enchanted Glass features glass that is described in a similar way.

      But I absolutely recommend you read Deep Secret! It’s very good, one of my favorites. You should read it straightaway, and if you do not like it, you should give it some time and read it again. It’s delightful! It features a fantasy/sci-fi convention! (The kind where people convene. Not the kind that is typical.)

  4. Loved House of Many Ways and I have Enchanted Glass out from the library right now and will probably read it in the next week or so. Stay tuned for my review! I love, love, love DWJ too!

    • Oh, good, I’m looking forward to seeing what you think! I liked it a lot, it was good to have a standalone from her after the last few that have been set in various same-worlds-as-before.

  5. I’ve just picked up ‘Enchanted Glass’ from the library and it’s earmarked for the weekend. Woe betide anyone who tries to get me to even so much as open the door until I’ve finished it.

    • I love having a nice book reserved for the weekend. It’s such a cozy feeling when Saturday morning dawns, if I have a particular much-anticipated new book to read.

  6. I received Enchanted Glass as an ARC and it seems I should get off my proverbial reading butt and give it a go. I’ve never read any of Jones’s stuff.

    • Hm, I wouldn’t necessarily start with Enchanted Glass, if it’s your first Jones. It’s worth reading – I enjoyed it a lot – but it’s not Jones’s best book. Howl’s Moving Castle or Charmed Life would probably be good for starting out.

  7. I love your reasons for loving her! Have you read any Margaret Mahy? I read The Changeover last week and much to my delight it reminded me quite a bit of DWJ. Not in a derivative way, but in a these-two-authors-are-awesome-in-some-of-the-same-ways sort of, er, way 😛

    • I haven’t read her, no. But being similar to Diana Wynne Jones is a matchless recommendation for me! I’ve heard of Mahy before, I think, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book by her.

  8. ACK!

    Now I have another book to read.

    I blame you.

    Yes, You.

    Also, Howl’s, Castle, and House (you should know the series by my stupid shortenings) are the best series! I keep coming back to them again and again. (Especially Howl)

    • Okay, but in fairness, you should really also blame Diana Wynne Jones. She keeps writing new books. I can’t help it if she continues to be amazing.

      (DO NOT BLAME HER REALLY. It might jinx her. I want her to live forever.)

      Yeah, I love Howl too. To read about! He’d be awful to live with. Possibly my favorite ever line from DWJ is Howl’s saying “My shining dishonesty will be the salvation of me.” 🙂

  9. Pingback: Diana Wynne Jones: A Collection of Mini Reviews | Iris on Books

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