More Diana Wynne Jones books

Don’t blame me. She has written a lot of books.

The One Where Words Are Mighty
Archer’s Goon

The world it is set in: Modern England, in a town
The premise: When Howard comes home to find a Goon in his kitchen, it is his first inkling that his town is controlled by seven very powerful wizards, all apparently hell-bent on taking over the world. But something is stopping them. They are all, for some reason, deeply interested in the two thousand words that Howard’s father Quentin writes each month, and each swears that she or he is not the one who has been receiving the words over the years. Quentin becomes determined not to write the words, as he fears the wizards will use them to take over the world, and in return the wizards begin persecuting his family. There are lovely layers of deceit and alliance and self-discovery. This is one of my favorites, although I rarely recommend it to people because it is hard to describe.
Something that pleases me: Torquil. With his outfits.

The One that is Clever and Emotionally Satisfying Despite Being Essentially a Parody
The Dark Lord of Derkholm

The world it is set in: The exact world as set forth in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, from the perspective of the people living there
The premise: A wicked man called Mr. Chesney, backed by a powerful demon, has been exploiting the world for years, forcing its inhabitants to set up their villages and towns for Tourists from another world to travel through. When a group of wizards consults an oracle to find out how to stop Mr. Chesney, mild-mannered wizard Derk finds himself saddled with the post of Dark Lord, though he would rather be designing new animals. Backed by his two human and five griffin children, Derk utterly fails at being Dark Lord, and everything goes absolutely spectacularly to hell. This should appeal to British audiences in particular, as things going spectacularly to hell are a staple of British humour.
Something that pleases me: The relationships between Derk’s griffin and human children. Diana Wynne Jones is good at siblings. Derk’s children have an excellent sibling dynamic.

The One That Is Less of a Cuddly Animal Story Than You Might Expect

The world it is set in: An English village during the Troubles
The premise: Sirius, the Dog Star, has been accused of murder and exiled to Earth as a dog. As a dog he is adopted by an Irish girl called Kathleen who is living with her uncle, aunt, and cousins while her father is in prison. Sirius has been told that he may be reinstated as the denizen of the Dog Star if he finds a thing called the Zoi, which he has supposedly lost. His dog-self cannot quite articulate what a Zoi is, but he tries to find it anyway, with the help of the Sun and a group of other dogs who appear to have come from the same litter as he has.
Something that pleases me: Sirius making friends with the cats.

The One Where Words Are Mighty But the Plot Is Difficult to Describe (& It’s Not Archer’s Goon)
Power of Three

The world it is set in: A large moor occupied by three races of people
The premise: There is this large moor occupied by three races of people: Lymen, who have the power of words; Dorigs, who can shapeshift; and Giants, who have great strength and machines that work by themselves. There is some contention as to whose the Moor should be. The point of view character is a Lyman boy called Gair, who does not feel that he fits in with his family or his village, and who feels relentlessly ordinary next to his brother and sister, each of whom has a rare and exciting Gift. The title can be taken to mean any number of things, and although I am not describing this book very well, I promise that it is good.
Something that pleased me: Gair is friends with the bees. I don’t know why but this idea appeals to me.

The One with Magic Chemistry Sets and a Wicked Stepfather
The Ogre Downstairs

The world it is set in: Modern England, with attendant nasty schoolchildren
The premise: Actually I covered it pretty well up there. Johnny, Caspar, and Gwinny’s mother remarries, and they do not especially care for their new stepfather, who is sarcastic, or their new stepbrothers, who are posh and superior. The stepfather, in an apparent attempt at making peace, gets a chemistry set for Johnny and one for Malcolm, and these turn out to be magical. Hilary ensues.
Something that pleases me: Caspar and Malcolm switching places.

The One with Sex, for Grown-ups
A Sudden Wild Magic

The world it is set in: Half ours and half another world that is stealing ideas from ours
The premise: There is this other world that is stealing ideas from ours. This would not be so bad, except that the pirate world keeps introducing disasters into our world to see how our scientists and witches cope, and then copying all of those ideas. The witches from our world organize a strike team to go to the pirate world and destabilize them–using sex, as it turns out that all the people controlling the copying of ideas are celibate dudes. Rogue elements become a factor, in particular a lovelorn single mother with very strong wild magic; and things do not quite go according to plan. This is not Diana Wynne Jones’s best book, but I have become rather fond of it anyway.
Something about it that pleases me: Marcus’s baby talk. He says damn damn bitches for jam sandwiches, and like that. It is cute.

The One That Makes More Sense If You Are Up on Norse Myths
Eight Days of Luke

The world it is set in: Modern England, but with Norse gods running around making trouble
The premise: While trying to curse the unpleasant relations with whom he lives, David inadvertently conjures up a boy called Luke, who claims that David has set him free from prison and he wants to help David any way he can, out of gratitude. They have some good adventures together, although Luke does not seem entirely compos mentis at all times, and then people start showing up trying to catch Luke. David makes a deal with one of them, Mr. Wednesday, that if he can keep Luke safe until the end of the week, Luke will be allowed to go properly free. Although Diana Wynne Jones thoughtfully includes a note at the end of the book explaining who is who in Norse mythology and why everyone was behaving that way, you will probably get the most enjoyment out of this book if you had a book of Norse mythology stories as a kid.
Something that pleases me: This book gave Neil Gaiman the germ of the idea for American Gods. I like it that Neil Gaiman is always using Diana Wynne Jones’s ideas to write books that just really could not be more different.

Anyway, there you go. I have still not done all of Diana Wynne Jones’s books, notably sequels (including one of my very favorites, Witch Week, which is one of the Chrestomanci books although Chrestomanci doesn’t show until halfway through) and books that I have not read often enough to feel sure that I’d be able to give a good account of them. These include the Dalemark Quartet, of which I shall be rereading at least one for Diana Wynne Jones Week, A Tale of Time City, and the bewildering and scary Time of the Ghost, which if you’d care to read it and explain it to me, I’d be grateful.

26 thoughts on “More Diana Wynne Jones books

  1. The only one of these I’ve read is Dark Lord of Derkholm, but you’re absolutely right, the sibling dynamics were my favorite part (although it made me glad my brother didn’t have talons). I still haven’t read the sequel, though… one of these days…

    • The sequel’s a lot of fun, particularly if you are like me and enjoy boarding school stories. Elda goes off to wizard school and makes loads of new friends who all have difficulties. Not so much of the sibling dynamics – although Blade, Collette, and Kit do put in appearances – but there are professors with horrible ties.

  2. What’s the one where the boy brings back real items from his dreams? That premise stayed with me for years and I always wanted it to happen to me.

    • The Lives of Christopher Chant! If I remember correctly, that’s the first one I ever read! It’s the second (chronologically the first, but DWJ recommends reading it second, and so do I) book in the Chrestomanci series.

    • I guess it depends on your taste. Of the ones I’ve mentioned recently, the only ones I would specifically suggest you NOT try would be Hexwood, A Sudden Wild Magic, or Eight Days of Luke. Apart from those, most any of her books are good for a first try. Fire and Hemlock is her best book (though the ending’s a little confusing); Howl’s Moving Castle and Charmed Life are two that are very friendly and accessible. But honestly, most any book that sounds good to you is good to read.

  3. I think what I love most about this (apart from the fact that you are such a big DWJ fan) is that there are still DWJ books I haven’t read. Of this list, Archers Goon, Eight Days of Luke, and Dogsbody. Hooray!

    I was inadvertently reading DWJ last week (not having read your blog for a while because I still have no internet in my new flat). I re-read Conrad’s Fate and Charmed Life, and however much I think I’ve read one of her books enough times before, I STILL end up getting sucked in.

    • Oh mercy, I hope you get internet soon, you poor thing!

      Go for Archer’s Goon. I love Archer’s Goon. Archer’s Goon is great, makes much of sibling dynamics, and doesn’t get anything like the amount of love it deserves.

  4. I’m currently reading Witch Week and I’m finding it really disturbing. I think it’s that darkest of Jones’s books that I have read so far. While most of the books involved deceased parents and children being betrayed this one actually has children fleeing from inquisitors and witches being burned, plus the children themselves are all horrid. I’m not loving it so far.

    • Ack, I missed responding to your comment. Yes, Witch Week is very dark, and I didn’t like it the first time I read it either. It resolves rather ambiguously, I think–the first time I read it, I thought, well, this is absurdly optimistic and does not match the tone of the book at all. And then when I reread it I wasn’t so sure.

  5. Ah! You’ve reminded me I actually read half of Archer’s Goon once long ago. I think I just found it a muddle or a bore and gave up, sadly.

    • Without in any way trying to make you read a book you’re not going to like, I will say I have often found Diana Wynne Jones’s books muddly or boring on the first try, and come to love them thereafter. Archer’s Goon is one I had to try a few times before I loved it.

    • I’m rereading the Dalemark Quartet now, actually, and enjoying it way more than I remember doing last time I read them. Historically I’ve been more about admiring my matching set of those books, than rereading them. :p

  6. Pingback: A New Challenge of Sorts– Diana Wynne Jones Week « Just Book Reading

  7. Last time I read it, Time of the Ghost was *seriously* hard to track down–I only got it thanks to being at U library & being able to use WorldCat.

    And, yeah, it was really creepy. Probably her creepiest. Can’t tell you what it was about because a)it’s been a while since I read it and b)I’m not sure I followed it all, myself, though I remember the story being quite satisfactory.

    • My library at home has it, and I think the library here has it as well, at one of the branches. I just need to put a hold on it. I’m encouraged by the fact that you remember finding it satisfactory. It’s the only one of Diana Wynne Jones’s books I still actively dislike, and I am confident that a few more rereads will crack it. I want to love her entire oeuvre.

  8. Great idea to do a reading week of DWJ. I need a heads up to finally read one of her novels. I’ll try to find Howl’s Moving Castle and read that in time.

  9. I have now read or reread THREE DWJ books in the past week, because your postings reminded me how much I love her work, and it’s been so long since I read any! Couldn’t remember if I’d actually read The Lives of Christopher Chant so I read it again. Even better the second time, and now I really want my daughter (world’s biggest Harry Potter fan) to read it. WHY isn’t DWJ as popular as JK Rowling? JKR is great, I love HP, but DWJ just doesn’t get the attention she deserves in this country. It makes me a little sad.

    • Wow! I’m happy I could give you the nudge to revisit her. I agree, she deserves way more attention than she receives. They put a lot of her books back into print behind the success of Harry Potter, but then most of them seem to have gone back out of print again. I don’t understand why, when she’s such a superb writer!

      (At least part of JK Rowling’s success is the serialization thing. Nobody can resist things in several parts that they have to wait for.)

  10. Ooh, I really like the sound of DOGSBODY! (Me=big dog person). I was going to start my DWJ Week book last night, but then I got distracted by Lloyd Alexander. So, tonight!

  11. Pingback: Diana Wynne Jones Week begins « Jenny's Books

  12. Pingback: In Which I Celebrate Diana Wynne Jones Week a Week Late « The Alcove

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