Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Diana Wynne Jones —

A DWJ post by Leah Schnelbach at tor.com: Diana Wynne Jones Subverted Fantasy Even as She Celebrated It

Any time she had the chance to subvert your expectations of the brooding Byronic wizard, or the master enchanter, or the fantasy kingdom wracked by war, she took it.

She kinda did, didn’t she? And never more than in The Dark Lord of Derkholm, which along with The Year of the Griffin was one of my favorites

The movie version of Howl’s Moving Castle means that that seems to be the one work of DWJ’s that a lot of people think of. For me it was fine but not one of the top ten. For me — and some of this has to do with personal inclinations (griffins!) and some with how old I was when I first read the book — but for me, right at this moment, the top five DWJ titles would be:

5. The Dark Lord of Derkholm — I love the meta design of the world and the whole concept of the Dark Lord. I loved the complicated family. Was the dragon a little bit of a deus ex device? Maybe, maybe, but in a way that worked for me.

4. The Year of the Griffin — because griffins! And complicated family relationships! Also the school setting. I especially love Callette, but really, all the characters.

3. The Power of Three — The thoughtful, introspective young male lead is one we don’t see enough in YA fiction. DWJ handled this complicated plot, with Lymen, Dorig, and Giants (humans), in a way that seemed seamless at the time I first read it (long ago). I still admire how it was put together when I re-read it today.

2. The Lives of Christopher Chant — I think this may have been the first DWJ novel I ever read, and for me it was *the* quintessential DWJ world for a long time. I still think of it first when I think of DWJ. Some of you may know that my cat is named Chrestomanci. He’s very elegant, and sometimes turns up suddenly if you say his name.

1. Dogsbody — My very favorite book by DWJ. Nobody’s ever done a better dog story. And the thing is, it’s also a great human story. Kathleen is a wonderful character, but I do think she is so effective mostly because we see her through the eyes of Sirius. Frankly, this story is an amazing mashup — stars, the Wild Hunt (always a favorite of mine, probably because of this book) — tough family situations, and of course the dogs.

If you asked me again in a month, I might give you a different Top Five for Diana Wynne Jones. But I’m pretty sure Dog’sbody would still be at the top of my list.

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2 Comments Diana Wynne Jones —

  1. Megan

    I think Dark Lord of Derkholm is tied with Archer’s Goon for favorites for me. They’re wildly different stories in a sense—“traditional” fantasy versus urban—but on the other hand both of them are crazy adventures that left me in stitches. I still adore the chase scene at the end of Archer’s Goon, where Howard is calling on the various siblings and they’re actually helping him.

    I also have to give Hexwood props for being the only book I consistently have to read twice every time I read it. The first time is to enjoy the story and the second time is to spot what’s REALLY going on.

    … Which reminds me I’ve planned to re-read every DWJ book I have since she died, and am only just now getting around to it.

  2. Rachel

    I’ve only read Hexwood once, and I really need to re-read it to, as you say, see what’s REALLY going on. Acher’s Goon is another one I really liked and, yes, I would like to re-read it, too.

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