Tag Archives: Diana Wynne Jones

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Dark Lord of Derkholm – Book 1 of the Derkholm series by Diana Wynne Jones #Brainfluffbookreview #TheDarkLordofDerkholmaudiobookreview

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I had bought this one for my dyslexic grandson back in the day when he relied on his Audible reads to keep in touch with the world of books – but I didn’t have a kindle back then that could cope with audiobooks. I have now…

Everyone – wizards, soldiers, farmers, elves, dragons, kings and queens alike – is fed up with Mr Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties: groups of tourists from the world next door who descend en masse every year to take the Grand Tour. What they expect are all the trappings of a grand fantasy adventure, including the Evil Enchantress, Wizard Guides, the Dark Lord, Winged Minions, and all. And every year different people are chosen to play these parts. But now they’ve had enough: Mr Chesney may be backed by a very powerful demon, but the Oracles have spoken. Now it’s up to the Wizard Derk and his son Blade, this year’s Dark Lord and Wizard Guide, not to mention Blade’s griffin brothers and sisters, to save the world from Mr Chesney’s depredations.

I know this one is advertised as a children’s read – but it certainly didn’t feel that way to me. Mr Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties are portalled in from another, non-magical world (which sounds very much like our own…) where the pilgrims are promised – and expect – the full fantasy experience. Each group has a wizard guide as they are ushered around to take part in various skirmishes with pirates, avian monsters and a final full-scale battle against the forces of the Dark Lord, who they help overthrow. However, all these tours are taking their toll on the fabric and people exposed to this series of tourist incursions. While this is characterised as hilarious, and I found it both clever and witty – I wasn’t all that amused. I kept thinking of how the locals must feel on the Greek islands when they are overrun by hordes of British youngsters looking for loud music and drunken revelry… And they don’t have a Derk to deliver them from the constant, ongoing invasion. That’s only one example – I’m also aware of places like Indonesia where alongside five-star hotels are staff working long, thankless hours for a pittance as most of the income is hoovered up by the large multinational companies exploiting the natural beauty of the location.

Derk struggles to deal with numerous nit-picking organisational problems and as I continued painting the bathroom, I listened to the unfolding muddle, excellently narrated by Jonathan Broadbent. It was yet another joy – I am so enjoying my audiobook experience! This one is very highly recommended for anyone who enjoys intelligent fantasy adventures – but I shan’t be introducing it to my younger nine-year-old grandson, yet. Clever and precocious though he is, he simply won’t be able to fully appreciate the issues Wynne Jones is addressing in this clever, thoughtful book for another of handful of years.
10/10

Sunday Post – 23rd June, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I’ve been AWOL this week – which has been something of a roller-coaster… We have been embarking on a series of home improvements, given it’s far too long since we spruced up the house and duly got someone in to look at the guttering, which clearly needed replacing. Only it didn’t. Once the builders investigated, it rapidly became clear that we needed a new roof, instead. The roofing felt is like paper mache and the ends of the joists are rotten. The cowboys who replaced our soffits (Anglian Windows, in case anyone is interested…) must have been well aware of the situation when they fitted the soffits by screwing them straight into the rotten joists, but bodged the job and said nothing. Suddenly the house is swathed in scaffolding, the tiles are off, the rotten wood in the process of being replaced, along with the felt. Meanwhile we are frantically arranging finance… The sudden, sharp rainstorms hammering down throughout the week haven’t helped, either.

Other news – I have started my Poetry short course at Northbrook this week, which went well. My writing buddy Mhairi came down for a few days and while she was here, the proof copy of Netted arrived through the post with the awesome cover looking every bit a fabulous as we thought it would. And I spent yesterday with my sister who took me out shopping to celebrate my birthday. In the meantime, I keep waiting for my life to get more boring… please?

Last week I read:

The Killer in the Choir – Book 19 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett
Although she hadn’t known Leonard Mallett very well, nor liked him particularly, Carole Seddon feels duty bound to attend her fellow committee member’s funeral. As she suspected, the hymns, readings and sermon are all very predictable — not unlike Leonard himself. What she couldn’t have predicted was that the deceased’s daughter would use the occasion to publicly accuse her stepmother of murder. Did Heather Mallett really kill her husband, as many Fethering residents believe? Deciding to get to the heart of the matter, Carole’s neighbour Jude joins the new community choir – and discovers that amidst the clashing egos and petty resentments lurk some decidedly false notes. At least one chorister would appear to be hiding a deadly secret — and it’s up to Carole and Jude to unearth the truth.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Liar in the Library recently, so was delighted when given the opportunity to also read this offering. Once more Fethering is buzzing with yet another murder – and getting reacquainted with these characters was even more fun than I’d anticipated. I shall be reading more of these…

The Dark Lord of Derkholm AUDIOBOOK – Book 1 of the Derkholm series by Diana Wynne Jones
Everyone – wizards, soldiers, farmers, elves, dragons, kings and queens alike – is fed up with Mr Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties: groups of tourists from the world next door who descend en masse every year to take the Grand Tour. What they expect are all the trappings of a grand fantasy adventure, including the Evil Enchantress, Wizard Guides, the Dark Lord, Winged Minions, and all. And every year different people are chosen to play these parts. But now they’ve had enough: Mr Chesney may be backed by a very powerful demon, but the Oracles have spoken. Now it’s up to the Wizard Derk and his son Blade, this year’s Dark Lord and Wizard Guide, not to mention Blade’s griffin brothers and sisters, to save the world from Mr Chesney’s depredations.
This is billed as a children’s book – but it doesn’t feel like it. It seems far more like a clever exploration of what happens when people flock to a wonderful place to experience said wonder – all on their own terms, of course. And while parts are funny, other parts are quite dark. But all wonderfully gripping and well realised in this audiobook.

The Halfling – Book 1 of the Aria Fae series by H.D. Gordon
What do you get when you take a highly trained Halfling teenager and throw her into the concrete jungle of Grant City? One badass vigilante, of course! 17-year-old Aria Fae is no stranger to danger. She’s super fast, incredibly strong, and on her own for the first time ever.
Throw in a brand new best friend who’s a computer genius, a mysterious and super-fly older neighbor, and a drug that’s turning people into maniacs, and you’ve got the potion for trouble.
This YA superhero read was unexpectedly engrossing. Yes… Aria has it all – super-human strength and top-notch training. She also has enhanced hearing and sense of smell, as well as effective night vision. But, after a series of traumatic events that dumped her into Grant City, alone and friendless – she is also struggling with depression.

My posts last week:

Review of Broken Heart Attack – Book 2 of the Braxton Campus Mysteries by James J. Cudney

Friday Faceoff featuring The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Outside by Ada Hoffmann

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – and I apologise for not visiting or comment all that much. It’s been a tad full on. I hope you have a wonderful week.

Friday Faceoff – He who opens a school door closes a prison… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoff

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is SCHOOLS, so I’ve selected Year of the Griffin – Book 2 of the Derkholm series by Diana Wynne Jones.

 

This edition was produced by HarperCollins in September 2012. I really like the wonderful young griffin flying over the magical school in a scene that is full of drama and excitement. I also like the title font, which is elegant and eye-catching that gives a sense of this excellent, funny school story that deserves to be far better known than it is.

 

Published in January 2014 by HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks, this excellent cover leaves me a bit conflicted. I love that wonderful ‘magical’ acid green colour with those eye-catching black silhouettes and the fabulous curling fonts. BUT this is a children’s book – and I think this cover has a strong horror vibe, which is unfortunate as it’s nothing of the sort, being an entertaining school story with lots of humour. Otherwise, this one would have been my favourite.

 

This edition, published by Gollancz in 2001, is another strong cover. That griffin looks magnificent, with the landscaped stretched out below – but again, this cover suggests that this is epic fantasy, rather than a very funny children’s book.

 

Produced by Азбука in 2018, this Russian edition is my favourite. At long last – a well-designed cover that also is genre-appropriate. I love all the students gathered together in the upper part of the cover, while one of the defining scenes features below it. The font is also suitably quirky. While I’m not sure exactly what it says, I do love that tail emerging from the title font and the dear little mouse at the bottom.

 

This Japanese edition, published by Tokyo Sogensha in August 2003, is another strong contender, given it also features the main characters in the very grand school quadrangle. But I do like the artwork, particularly that of the characters – they have a strong sense of a Japanese influence. Which one is your favourite?

Sunday Post – 27th August 2017

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

The news with my sister continues to be good. By some miracle she has managed to avoid any eye injury as last week the eye clinic gave her the thumbs up. Now we just have to get the allclear with the heart clinic… The bruising continues to fade and she continues to recover. Thank you everyone who wished her well and/or prayed for her – you clearly made a difference!

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I was busy grannying as the children returned from their trip to Disneyland Paris, full of enthusiasm and excitement about their wonderful holiday. As ever, they were a joy – I just wish the weather had been less uncertain. Typically, from the moment they returned home, it brightened up! Thursday I spent lazing around after having painfully pulled a muscle in my shoulder – I was also quite tired so gave myself permission to read and sleep throughout the morning, though I did get up later to do some writing and answer emails.

On Friday, my sister and I went shopping for wool – I have to knit a Dr Who scarf for Tim’s film and rehearsals will be resuming at the start of September, which is closing at the speed of an oncoming train. I went online and found a really good knitting pattern produced by the BBC for Tom Baker’s first Dr Who scarf. However, as well as wool, we got a bit sidetracked and I found myself returning home from an ad hoc shopping spree with a couple of storage jars, two sets of lovely towels and a very nice jacket. We only went out for some balls of wool and a row counter! We’ve agreed that we need to ration our shopping habit as we are clearly a bad influence on each other. Though it was huge fun.

This week I have read:
The Lost Steersman – Book 3 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein
How do you find someone? How, if you have never seen him, never heard him described, did not know where he lived? How, if he wished not to be found? And how, most especially, if he were the most powerful wizard in the world? The steerswoman Rowan has discovered that the fall of the Guidestar and the massacre of Outskirter tribes were caused by one man: the secret master-wizard, Slado. But until now, no steerswoman had known of his existence, nor knew that the wizards answered to any single authority. Now, Rowan must find him. She comes to the seaside town of Alemeth, where centuries of records might help her find clues for her search. Then, an unexpected encounter with a lost friend: Janus, a steersman who had resigned his membership in the Steerswomen, giving no explanation. Now Rowan has hope for help in her search — but Janus has changed. The bright intellect is shrouded in a dark, shattered spirit…
This wonderful series just keeps on delivering. I thought I was on one kind of adventure – and turned around twice to find it was something completely different. I love it when that happens! Utterly engrossing, this third book in the series is a joy.

 

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones
When Andrew Hope’s magician grandfather dies, he leaves his house and field-of-care to his grandson who spent much of his childhood at the house. Into this mix comes young Aidan Cain, who turns up from the orphanage asking for safety. Who he is and why he’s there is unclear, but a strong connection between the two becomes apparent.
I spotted this one in the library – and it was a no-brainer that I’d scoop it off the shelves. Once more this wonderful writer has woven a fantasy tale that drew me in with her magical mix of mayhem, humour, darkness and magic… I didn’t want to put this YA offering down until I reached the last page.

 

Death Shall Come – Book 4 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Death shall come on swift wings to whoever desecrates this tomb … Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny have been summoned to remote Cardavan House, home of the world’s largest private collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts, for the unveiling of George Cardavan’s latest acquisition: a bone fide Egyptian mummy. When a bloodstained body is discovered beside the empty sarcophagus, Ishmael is dismissive of the theory that the mummy’s curse is to blame. Instead he sets out to uncover the human killer responsible. But how can Ishmael explain the strange, shuffling footsteps that creep along the corridors? Who is playing games with them … and why?
This is the class country house murder – right down to the Egyptian curse surrounding some unique ancient artefacts. However, this isn’t set back in the 1920s when these affairs were all the rage – Green has set this one here and now with a paranormal twist and lots of gritty action. Great fun!

 

Spirit Witch – Book 3 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic by Helen Harper
Barely recovered from her brush with necromancy, Ivy is flung once more into a world of intrigue, adventure and potential death and disaster. It’s not her fault – it just so turns out that she’s now the only person in the entire world who can communicate with the dead. And they’re a chatty bunch with a list of demands. When the ghosts offer information about a witch-hating mass murderer in return for Ivy’s help, she has no choice but to get involved. She might be getting herself into more trouble than she realises though – and that’s even before she’s dragged to Sunday dinner so she can meet Winter’s family…
Another wonderful offering that helped to continue this year’s marvellous string of thoroughly enjoyable reads – there has never been a better time to be a book-lover! This is the latest and supposedly last in this hilarious urban fantasy series – but I’m hoping that Helen Harper will listen to the pleas from her fans to consider at least one more helping of Ivy, Rafe and Brutus, the talking cat. Pretty please with sprinkles on the top!

 

The Heir to the North – Book 1 of Malessar’s Curse series by Steven Poore
“Caenthell will stay buried, and the North will not rise again until I freely offer my sword to a true descendant of the High Kings—or until one takes it from my dying hands!”
With this curse, the Warlock Malessar destroyed Caenthell. The bloodline of the High Kings disappeared and the kingdom faded into dark legend until even stories of the deed lost their power. But now there is an Heir to the North. Cassia hopes to make her reputation as a storyteller by witnessing a hardened soldier and a heroic princeling defeat Malessar and his foul curse. But neither of her companions are exactly as they appear, and the truth lies deep within stories that have been buried for centuries. As Cassia learns secrets both soldier and warlock have kept hidden since the fall of Caenthell, she discovers she can no longer merely bear witness. Cassia must become part of the story; she must choose a side and join the battle.
The North will rise again.
I got hold of this book by fellow Grimbold author, Steven Poore, with the firm intention of reading it – and somehow it got trapped in a holding pattern on my TBR pile. Until I decided I wanted some epic fantasy in my life… I’m so glad I did! I really loved this one.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 20th August

Review of Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice – Book 4 of The Austen Project by Curtis Sittenfeld

Teaser Tuesday featuring Death Shall Come – Book 4 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green

Review of One Fell Sweep – Book 3 of The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Real-Town Murders – Book 1 of The Real-Town Murders series by Adam Roberts

Friday Face-off – If I be waspish, best beware my sting… featuring Lord of the Flies by William Golding

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Spirit Witch – Book 3 of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Magic by Helen Harper

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week and a bit, in no particular order:

Lola’s Ramblings: Birthday Party Book Tag http://lolasreviews.com/lolas-ramblings-birthday-party-book-tag/ This was great fun and particularly appropriate as it happened to turn up on Lola’s blog near her birthday… Happy Birthday, Lola😊

Brief Memories of Brian Aldiss http://www.julietemckenna.com/?p=2741 Fantasy author Juliet E. McKenna has written a lovely tribute to Brian Aldiss, who I had the honour to meet at my very first Fantasycon back in 2011. I grew up reading his amazing worlds and to have the chance to talk to him was magical. While it was only a passing conversation, I can echo Juliet’s comments on just what a generous man he was. He will be missed…

Good venues for microfiction http://earthianhivemind.net/2017/08/24/good-venues-microfiction/ Once again, Steph has provided a really useful article for those of us who write short shorts…

Finding and Losing Time https://thenaptimeauthor.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/finding-and-loosing-time/ I loved this one. It sums up the dilemma of parenthood – and I happen to think Anne has made the right choice…

#WhenDreamsComeTrue with author Alice Castle @ DDsDiary https://mychestnutreadingtree.wordpress.com/2017/08/20/whendreamscometrue-with-author-alice-castle-ddsdiary/ I really enjoy reading how various authors come to write and publish their books, so wanted to share my love for this series.

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

Friday Faceoff – Happy Easter!

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is Easter, so I’ve chosen The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones.

 

This cover, produced by HarperCollins Children’s Books in April 2007 is a delight. It is stylish and quirky with an attractive colour palette and filled with images directly attributable to the book. As for the font – I think it is wonderful. Diana Wynne Jones wrote books unlike any other and this twirling font manages to evoke the sheer difference of her writing. A wonderful effort and my favourite by a whisker.

 

 

This Finnish edition, produced by WSOY in May 2011 is another beautiful design that runs the above offering a very, very close second. It is so cleverly done, with all sorts of allusions to the magical story popping up around the main font and a lovely ethereal landscape as the background. These are both two outstanding covers and do full justice to the book, in my opinion.

 

 

This cover, once again, is closely aligned to the book and its content – the main protagonists feature right in the forefront and the artwork is well done. The egg looks amazing and I don’t think you could look at this book and have any doubt that it is a fantasy story about a magical egg. The cover design is also very well balanced – the main reason why this one isn’t my favourite is because I envisaged Chrestomanci looking just a little less saturnine and a little more kind, which is an entirely personal reaction.

 

This is the cover design, produced by Harper Collins in 2006, that features on the book we own. Again, it’s a solidly good design – featuring Diana Wynne Jones name so prominently is a good marketing ploy as catching sight of that had me swooping down on this one from across the bookshop and plucking it off the shelves. But while it is far simpler than the other offerings, it still makes it quite clear this is a book featuring a magical egg.

All these eggy covers are well designed, with thought and care for the book’s genre and all are attractive, but which is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – There was once a princess who lived in the highest tower…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week we are looking at covers featuring castles and I have chosen Howl’s Moving Castle by the awesome Diana Wynne Jones.

 

howlsmovingcastle3This is one of the early covers on the Greenwillow Book edition of 1986. It effectively captures the zany humour and amazing imagination of the author.

 

 

howlsmovingcastleThis offering again reflects the humour and quirky storyline and was brought out by Greenwillow Books in 2012. I really enjoy this one – it draws me in and makes me want to read it.

 

howlsmovingcastle1This offering, produced in 2009 by Harper Collins, seems to be the adult version for those who don’t like to be seen reading children’s books. I think it’s rather cluttered and trying a bit too hard to appear cool and quirky, despite the attractive colours.

 

 

howlsmovingcastle2This Spanish cover, produced by Berenice in 2007 nails it, as far as I’m concerned. I love the steampunkish echoes that work well with the tone of the book and the detail is a delight, while the muted colour palette gives the cover a punchy different look, when surrounded by the often lurid colours used for many children’s books. What about you, which one is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – Which Witch is Which?

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This is a new meme started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week’s topic is covers featuring witches or witchcraft. And for me it had to be this book: Witch Week – Book 3 of the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones , which should be FAR better known. If you like the Harry Potter series, then you’ll love Chrestomanci’s world.

All three covers are British. This first offering is on the book that I own, published in 2000 by Harper Collins. It’s okay, featuring the main protagonists but doesn’t have the darkness or the quirkiness of this memorable book.

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This next cover was produced by Greenwillow Publishing back in 1997 and far more captures the darkness and sense of threat that runs through the story. There is also a nod to the enigmatic enchanter who is in charge of all things magical within the worlds, which I like.

witchweek

But this is my favourite by a long country mile.

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I love the bright boldness of the colours and the wonderful curling font. I reckon Harper Collins nailed it with this vastly improved effort, featuring Chrestomanci himself in the foreground, with all the additional quirky characters and events popping up in and around the title. What do you think?

Favourite Fantasy Worlds – Part 2

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I posted my first five Favourite Fantasy Worlds a few weeks ago, so here are the next group. All of these worlds are well developed, nicely complex and provide satisfying backdrops for the stories. It’s no accident they are all series. One of the reasons I really enjoy multi-book story arcs is the extra layers of detail that can be built into the worldbuilding.

The Glass Thorns series by Melanie Rawn
This original, remarkable series is set in the equivalent age of the Tudors, with horse-drawn conveyances Touchstoneand charts the fortunes of a magical travelling theatre company. In the first book, Touchstone, they form their group and the next three books in the series records their highs and lows as they steadily get more prosperous and successful. Though that brings its own pressures. The glass thorns of the series title, are the drugs the actors dose themselves with, in order to heighten their emotions – or help them relax after the excitement of performance. I eagerly await each book and so far, have not been disappointed at the unfolding drama of these enormously talented, difficult people battling to produce their best work in less than ideal circumstances.

The Worlds of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones
This series of books covers the adventures of the state-appointed enchanter Chrestomanci, who is taskedCharmedLife with keeping law and order amongst the magical community. I have read most of these books to my granddaughter, after having devoured them myself several decades ago – my favourite is Charmed Life. And rereading them aloud has not only proved they can stand the test of time, but increased my respect at the quality of the writing, the crafting of the story arcs and the sheer quirky genius of Jones’ imagination. Yes – I know they are supposed to be for children, but give them a go if you appreciate magical mayhem. They are a joy for any age group.

The Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong
nohumansinvolvedThis world is extensively portrayed in the thirteen-book series, with a number of accompanying novellas and short stories. It all kicks off with Bitten, where werewolf Clay accidentally bites his girlfriend – and her life is never the same again. But don’t go away with the idea that the series is all about werewolves – it also encompasses witches, necromancers and vampires. In short, anyone who dabbles with the paranormal or magic. Read my review of No Humans Involved. The world is enjoyable – I love the way Armstrong manages to slide from everyday normality into something else.

Einarinn by Juliet E. McKenna
Again, this extensive, detailed world has been produced over a long period of time through several series dangerous watersof books – there are five books within The Tales of Einarinn; four books in The Aldabreshin Compass; three books and a novella in The Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution and her latest trilogy, still set within the same world – The Hadrumal Crisis. Juliet provides an excellent explanation of her world on her blog. They are all great reads – but my personal favourites are The Aldabreshin Compass series and The Hadrumal Crisis – see my review of Dangerous Waters.

The Inheritance trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
thehundredthousandkingdomsThis is an extraordinary series – particularly the first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms which is set in the city Sky where gods and mortal co-exist. See my review here. The book is pervaded by the sense of threat and a feeling that a set of rules apply here that our protagonist needs to know, but doesn’t fully understand. The second book, The Broken Kingdoms had me in tears at the end – and that doesn’t happen all that often, these days. If you like remarkable fantasy on an epic scale focusing on gods, then give it a go.

And there you have it… a few of my favourite fantasy worlds to date. What are your favourite fantastic worlds?

Review of Charmed Life – Book 1 of The Worlds of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones

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I’ve been reading this entertaining series – see my review of Witch Week here – to my granddaughter, who is becoming a confirmed fan of speculative fiction, and during the summer holidays we have recently completed this classic. Would she enjoy it as much as I did?

Everybody says that Gwendolen Chant is a gifted witch with astonishing powers, so it suits her enormously when she is taken to live in Chestomanci Castle. Her brother Eric (better known as Cat) is not so keen, for he has no talent for magic at all. However life with the great enchanter and his family is not what either of them expects and sparks soon begin to fly…

CharmedLifeThis book is from the viewpoint of Cat, Gwendolen’s younger brother. I initially read it years ago and it simply blew me away. The writing is so sharply witty, the humour knockabout – but with a sharp poignancy underneath that also left me with a lump in my throat several times. So rereading it to a young audience, would the magic still stir again?

Oh yes. Reading it aloud, and knowing what happens next, I was able to appreciate the technical skill and storytelling genius of Wynne Jones, as Cat experiences the fireworks his wilful and lethally gifted sister produces. Cat is a wonderful character – quiet and unassuming, trying to slide through life without drawing any attention to himself and always looking to Gwendolen for guidance. We make assumptions alongside him, to find them blown away in the amazing, shocking denouement that is so delightfully pitch perfect in pacing, heightening the drama, providing the switch moment when Cat learns exactly what Gwendolen is up to and how it impacts upon him that I get goose pimples when I think of it.

If you are considering writing any form of fiction where a climactic moment is important, I urge you to go and hunt for this book. If you loved the Harry Potter series, then track down Charmed Life. It is a classic for a solid reason – quality fantasy action pings off every page and I don’t see why children should have all the fun, anyway.
10/10

Review of Witch Week – Book 3 of The Worlds of Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones

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After reading Mars Evacuees, Frankie asked for ‘another of your awesome books, Granny,’ so I had to oblige with something special after a request like that. And came up with this…

Here is a world where witchcraft is utterly forbidden, yet where magic still seems to break out like measles – all over the place! When a note, written in ordinary blue ballpoint, appears between two of the homework books Mr Crossley is marking, he is very upset.
It says: SOMEONE IN THIS CLASS IS A WITCH
Anyone could have written it, but the most awful thing is, the note might be true for Larwood House is a school for witch orphans. And the last thing Mr Crossley needs is a visit from the Divisional Inquisitor…

witchweekThe story is mostly told through the viewpoint of four miserable pupils in Class 2Y – Charles Morgan, Nan Pilgrim, Brian Wentworth and Nirupam Singh. Right from the beginning, there is a strong sense of tension running through the narrative – for witches are strictly forbidden and the fate of anyone using magic is to be interrogated, tortured and then burnt. This being Wynne Jones, we don’t just have a strong sense of fear and tension running throughout the story – there are also moments of farce and laugh-aloud humour.

One of the things I love most about these books is that Wynne Jones doesn’t underestimate how much children understand. There is a whole lot within the story that is implied, rather than spelt out. Mr Wentworth’s fractured relationship with his son, Brian; Charles’ constant black fury and Nan’s desperate yearning to be good at something – even if it is riding around the bathroom on a frisky broomstick tired of being cooped up in the groundsman’s shed.

Although there are shafts of humour, life at Larwood House is no Mallory Towers. The children are divided into cliques, or mercilessly picked upon if they stand out – like Nan and Brian. While the class leaders, Simon and Theresa, spend most of their time mocking their less fortunate peers.

Frankie strongly connected with poor Nan Pilgrim, who takes comfort in being descended from the infamous Dulcinea Wilkes, but to be honest, none of the children are particularly pleasant, apart from Estelle. And this is one of the reasons why Wynne Jones is such a clever writer – their surly/victimised attitudes didn’t stop both of us really caring what happens to them,or poor harrowed Mr Wentworth.

And before the end, Wynne Jones throws in a fair dollop of chaotic chicanery into the mix that had the pair of us spluttering with laughter as I was reading. Another gem of a book that continues to inspire Frankie to go on battling through her severe dyslexia to become an independent reader. Another book that has given us yet another tranche of shared golden memories. If you have a youngster in your life old enough for the earlier Harry Potter tales, but perhaps not quite ready for the bleakness of the later books – track down the Chrestomanci series. They deserve to be far better known…
9/10