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Archer's Goon

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,361 Ratings  ·  193 Reviews

The trouble started when Howard Sykes came home from school and found the "goon" sitting in the kitchen. He said he'd been sent by Archer. But who was Archer? It had to do with the 2,000 words that Howard's author father had failed to deliver.

It soon became clear not only that Archer wanted those words, but that his wizard siblings, Hathaway, Dillian, Shine, Torquil, Erski

Paperback, 241 pages
Published 1986 by Methuen Children's (first published 1984)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Melissa McShane
I don't have a favorite Diana Wynne Jones book; I have a cluster of five favorites and six more second-tier favorites. Of those top five, three were published consecutively, and Archer's Goon is the first of those. DWJ's sixteenth published book, Archer's Goon represents, with Howl's Moving Castle, the peak of the humorous writing that characterizes much of her 1980s period. The core is a strong, beautifully plotted story, but it's overlaid with so many funny bits that it isn't until you get to ...more
Jul 15, 2009 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Writing can take over the world.

When even random daydreams are important signifiers you know you are in the grip of a superbly plotted extravaganzer. There is so much to admire here, and a huge cast of characters, each of whom is important, is distinctive and memorable, despite only appearing briefly in person. The story rolls along at speed without ever feeling forced.

As usual with DWJ lots of acutely observed moments, the epic hypocrisy of taking the taxpayers moral high ground when you aren't
Deborah O'Carroll
REREAD July 14, 2016

Rereading this aloud was so FUN. Doing the voices etc. for this crazy cast of characters was fabulous. I also loved reading it a second time because this time I actually understood what was going on, after all those mindbending plot-twists in the first reading. A.k.a. IT WAS EVEN BETTER THE SECOND TIME AND I DIDN'T THINK THAT WAS POSSIBLE.


Archer's Goon is a mysterious large man who shows up one day in Howard Sykes's kitchen, refusing to leave until Howard's father Quentin delivers the two thousand words he owes. When Quentin won't deliver, the Sykes family finds out that their town is run by seven competing siblings who are wizards - and one of them needs those words.

Jones's plots are always mysterious, and I think Archer's Goon is up there with her most bizarre. But she does a wonderful job keeping the mystery intriguing right
Jan 27, 2011 robyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the first of Dianna Wynne Jones' books that I ever read, and I went on from there to read and reread them all, or at least all of the ones on the library shelf.

Archer's Goon is without a doubt one of the most genuinely oddball books you will ever read. Wickedly witty, is how one "real" reviewer described it. And I'll stick with that, since an actual description of the plot couldn't give you ANY idea of how good it is. It's funny, it's suspenseful, it's full of characters likeable and ha
Glen Engel-Cox
I had been wanting to read Archer's Goon for quite some time, following my discovery of Jones' Chrestomanci series and generally feeling that she was my type of writer, something that hadn't been dispelled by the enjoyment of a couple of her other novels like Eight Days of Luke and Howl's Moving Castle (which, I believe, is soon to be a motion picture). But Archer's Goon had been originally published in 1984 and no one had seen fit to bring it back into print. I searched in vain at used book sto ...more
Julie Davis
Feb 23, 2011 Julie Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One day Howard and his sister Awful (you soon discover just how "awful" Anthea is and the reason for her nickname becomes evident)come home from school to find a huge goon in their kitchen. He says he was sent by Archer because Howard's dad hasn't turned in his quarterly payment of 2000 words. Just who Archer is and how 2000 words can be payment for anything turn are the beginning of a quest that take Howard and Awful on an adventure that truly is indescribable. It is a mystery that constantly s ...more
Alex Sarll
Reading David Langford's collected Critical Mass columns recently, I was startled by how many of the books I loved I'd first encountered on those reviews' original magazine publication. For some I had always remembered Langford as the vector; for many more, I did not until I encountered again the phrases which had first sold them to me. Others, I've since determined to read. And a couple sounded like things I should have read, but I genuinely couldn't remember if I had. This was the first one I ...more
Bernice Wong
Aug 22, 2008 Bernice Wong rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first book in which I was introduced to Diana Wynne Jones' seemingly haphazard, confusing, crazy but riveting storylines. It's like an amusement park ride! I actually had to re-read the story around three time to fully understand it, and it was an enjoyment every time!
Dec 19, 2007 Carrie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I got this book from the library. The best part was that on the last page, someone had written neatly in pencil: "this book comes with free spider." A spider was evenly pressed between the pages. Seriously, this was the best part of the whole book.
I am ridiculously fond of this book. Looking back to my childhood, during which I read hundreds of books, this one stands out with the brightness of a lighthouse.

What makes Archer's Goon so special is how deceptively simple it appears at first. Boy gets visitor, things happen, people are visited. Everything is very tightly written and one follows Howard step by step, never gaining any more information than he has. Never really discovering what is beyond the city, because for this story it absolu
Zach Sparks
Nov 23, 2014 Zach Sparks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dwj
I must have read this one for the first time back when I was in high school. I seem to remember reading it around the time just before or after Hexwood. I do believe that I liked it much better this time around, probably because I'm older and can appreciate the way that Jones writes such perfectly true to life disfunctional families in the midst of such wonderful fantasy. Some of my favorite moments in this book have to be when one of the characters is having a realization about their place in t ...more
May 02, 2013 Amai rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Definitely in my top 5 from DWJ. Not a number one, but not far from that.

Slow to pick up at first, but becomes steadily more and more fascinating as the story proceeds.

The numerous big plot twists are mind-blowing even for Diana's writing, yet still, it all makes sense and comes down very logically. This book is a prime example of how Diana had a tendency of dropping hints for observant readers to pick up. You can tell what's going to happen next if you just know where to look, yet it's never b
Took me a while to warm up to Archer's Goon, but in the end I enjoyed and admired it. Howard, his parents and his little sister, Awful (best name ever) live in some sort of magical city ruled by 7 wizards, all siblings, who farm over certain domains. Think greek gods, only quirkier.

One day, a goon arrives at their kitchen table and demands 2000 words. Howard's dad, for some reason unknown, writes 2000 words of anything, so long as they are original, sends them to a wizard and gets out of paying
Nov 07, 2011 Minna rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of DWJ
Recommended to Minna by: A friend
I always enjoy Diana Wynne Jones's books and got to borrow this one from a friend. She wanted me to read it so she could have someone to talk to about it. No one else she knew had read it. It took me almost a year to pick it up.

This seems to be one of her first books, and it really shows how much she has developed as a writer. The book, while not bad, sometimes loses it's drive and I can't really put my finger on why. Sometimes I just don't want to get things resolved or see how they could be.
Jun 27, 2010 Punk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
YA Fantasy. Howard Sykes comes home from school and finds his kitchen full of Goon, an enormous man with a tiny head. The Goon says that Howard's dad owes Archer his quarterly payment of 2000 words and the Goon's there to collect.

Consider this a more cheerful version of Jones' Eight Days of Luke with a hint of Gaiman's Endless thrown into the mix. Seven powerful wizards control Howard's town, and he and his family visit each of them, trying to free themselves from their meddling, eavesdropping w
Aug 13, 2007 Jam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who sometimes have to deal with their family.
One of my all-time favourite Diana Wynne Jones books. She's at her best dealing with families, and this deals with two. There's the core family, the Sykes-- Quentin (author and professor), Catriona (music teacher), Howard and Awful (Anthea is her real name, but she's *earnt* the name Awful). They live in more or less domestic harmony, of the sort that involves balancing out each minor crisis with tea, affection and the distraction of another crisis.

Then there's the other family, seven siblings
Sep 07, 2011 Zoe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kids-books, fantasy
Another re-read of one of my favourite DWJ books. As usual, I find it hard to explain why I love her books. The plot, the pacing, the lovely details (Hathaway unobtrusively switching the biscuits and wine to make them more palatable; Torquil calling Howard "limpet boy"; Awful primly refusing all of Dillian's food; Quentin telling the kids that his writing keeps them in bread and peanut butter; Howard running away with his boot going splart-splart-splart and begging Hathaway to send a bus - somet ...more
Rae Borman
May 21, 2016 Rae Borman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rae by: Kayla
I thoroughly enjoyed Archer's Goon. It was much lighter fare to counterbalance the other heavier works I'm in the middle of. I didn't guess the twists until I was almost upon them, which is always a treat with children's stories. It fit right into Diana Wynne Jones wonderfully real/modern world turned on its head in a fantastical way.
Jul 22, 2008 Scurra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's no contest for me - this is, hands down, my favourite DWJ. It's not as intricate as Hexwood, nor perhaps as subtle as Fire and Hemlock, but for mastery of form and style, this is nigh-on perfect.

A wonderful study of family dynamics, the way the two families reflect each other in unexpected ways never gets dull, and the farcical elements are perfectly played. Even as you realise what is really going on, she manages to pull surprise after surprise from the narrative - and for once the fin
Aaron Jansen
Apr 01, 2015 Aaron Jansen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here is evidence that plot, probably the most undervalued element of fiction in literary circles, can be a thing of beauty in and of itself. Moreover, it takes serious skill and artistry to do well. Not just anybody can write a good one. I doubt many Booker Prize-winning authors could put together a plot half this clever with guns held to their heads.

Archer’s Goon is kind of like a Rube Goldberg machine. It is Plot For Plot’s Sake. There isn’t a whole lot of reason for it to exist, except it is
Feb 01, 2015 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, middle-grade
This is one of the last Jones books that I ever read, and yet it impressed me as much as any of her others. While perhaps not on the same level as Howl’s Moving Castle or Fire and Hemlock or a few other of her novels, it’s still quintessentially DWJ, which means it’s pretty much golden as far as I’m concerned. There are only a couple of DWJ books that I don’t really like, and this is not one of them.

The two reveals about Erskine and Venturus were completely unexpected and surprising, and, as I’v
Another reviewer mentions dysfunctional families and I'm glad I saw that statement because I was initially annoyed by this book. Not enough to keep me from finishing it, but annoyed in a way that I couldn't put my finger on as the book took me on a tour of the members of a wizarding family that I just didn't like with each member I met. I kept asking, "why do we need to meet them all?" But it made sense in the end and the reviewer changed my opinion from "this book is about a bunch of irritating ...more

Archer s Goon really surprised me.

Obviously, being a Diana Wynne Jones book, it was going to be good quality but still I was dubious.
I have been putting off reading this book for about a year now, as I didn't think much of the blurb on the back. So my expectations weren’t high.
But, due to my goal of reading all of the published works of one of my favourite authors, I picked this book up at the library.

And... I was blown away. Diana Wynne Jones can make the most bizarre plot seem real.
Kate Turner
Aug 01, 2016 Kate Turner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, magic
i loved this ridiculous amazing book and awful is the greatest character in the history of fiction
I’ve said it before, but anything by Diana Wynne Jones is pretty much guaranteed to be amazing; if you haven’t read her books, you should totally start now. Having said that, Archer’s Goon probably isn’t the best book for someone unfamiliar with her writing to start out with, just because it’s a bit more gradual in its development. But it’s perfect that way. I absolutely loved the vague sense of unease, the way in which the strangeness just seemed to ooze out gradually, getting weirder and weird ...more
Apr 12, 2015 Eden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Howard came home from school and found the Goon sitting there, right in the kitchen. Told them that he'd been sent by Archer to get the 2,000 words from Howard's father.

Howard had no idea what the Goon was talking about, but soon learns from his father that the past 13 years he has been writing 2,000 and mailing them to a person named Mountjoy to cure writer's block. Or so he thought that's what it was for. But, it turns out to be much more complicated than that and soon they find themselves in
Dec 07, 2014 Alice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At first I though that I would hate it but it had been lent to my by a family friend who I didn't want to disappoint. I took it on holiday with me to France and started reading it. I was enthralled and enchanted by it. It was pure brilliance. This was three or four years ago. I wanted to buy it for myself but I forgot the title and was beginning to think I'd dreamed that this book even existed. Then inspiration struck in the form of my mother when she was trying to persuade my father that we sho ...more
Jun 10, 2013 Fiona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ever wondered what Nine Princes in Amber would be like, had it been written by the ever-brilliant Diana Wynne Jones? NOW WE KNOW.
Abigail H. Leskey
This has plot twists, bagpipers, roadwork, an author, violin practice, time-travel, Awful, and taxes.
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Diana Wynne Jones was the author of more than thirty critically acclaimed fantasy stories, including the Chrestomanci series and the novels Howl's Moving Castle and Dark Lord of Derkholm.

For Diana Wynne Jones's official autobiography, please see
More about Diana Wynne Jones...

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“This book will prove the following ten facts:
1. A Goon is a being who melts into the foreground and sticks there.
2. Pigs have wings, making them hard to catch.
3. All power corrupts, but we need electricity.
4. When an irresistible force meets an immovable object, the result is a family fight.
5. Music does not always sooth the troubled beast.
6. An Englishman's home is his castle.
7. The female of the species is more deadly than the male.
8. One black eye deserves another.
9. Space is the final frontier, and so is the sewage farm.
10. It pays to increase your word power.”
“Learn to drive?"
"Never," said Quentin. "My mission in life is to be a passenger.”
More quotes…