Myles's Reviews > Fire and Hemlock

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
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's review
Nov 13, 11

bookshelves: young-adult, fantasy, genretical, books-about-books
Read from November 10 to 11, 2011

DWJ Book Toast, #17

Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favorite fantasy authors, growing up and now, and I was saddened by the news of her death. I can't say I'm overcome with emotion - as personal as some of her work is to me, its not like I knew her after all - but I wish I could put into words how I feel about her no longer being out there, writing new adventures and laughing at all of us serious fans thinking so hard about her words when we should simply get on with the business of enjoying them.

And that's...what I'm going to do. She's left behind a huge body of work, a large amount of which I haven't read yet, so I'm going to reread all my old favorites (and hopefully some new).

When I wrote about The Time of the Ghost a week or so ago I used the phrase 'high concept'. Well. Fire and Hemlock is even more ambitious, and what's more it succeeds.

The novel isn't perfect and it took awhile for the future-looking-back narration to take hold, but the character of Polly is engaging, especially in her earlier memories, and the way the story unfolds kept me. As she grew up and the romance aspect became more prominent (I've never read Tam Lin or any adaption of it so I didn't have everyone pegged from the start) I lost some interest because it wasn't very believable, but by then I was committed.

Polly's reading and her writing attempts were a strong selling-point, too. Diana Wynne Jones definitely took pains to work in the influence of certain books on growing up and the mechanics behind those first endeavors to create something outside of yourself.

Like most Jones novels, things get a bit messy and there are disappointments and small successes for the characters as years go by, we only have Polly's perspective to go by but she provides all the information a reader needs. Jones doesn't ignore the unpleasant aspects of growing up or hesitate to give her characters undesirable homelifes. I'm not sure who wins the bad parenting of the year award in this one, Polly's mom and her dad are both remarkably screwed up individuals.

The fact that Jones' characters and their situations (below the fantastical happenings) are so close to life, really doesn't help Jones' chance at crafting a satisfying ending. There is a climactic ending featuring a convergence of unlikely characters and revealing explanations, but the bow around the final package ends up a trifle lopsided. This is one that needs a more careful rereading perhaps, but it was enjoyable.

-Before I click save I just have to deplore the stiff, fussy cover of this edition. On every level it is unappealing, from Ichobod Crane eyeballing the back of lace-collared Polly's head to the cheap typesetting of the title.

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Reading Progress

11/10/2011 page 276
66.0% "Too bad this has such a terrible cover. I would have read it ages ago."

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