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Archer's Goon

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  4,323 ratings  ·  273 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
Hardcover, 324 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by Greenwillow Books (first published April 9th 1984)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,323 ratings  ·  273 reviews

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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
Juho Pohjalainen
Jun 14, 2020 rated it liked it
A bit tricky to follow on occasion, but I liked the twists.
Aug 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Very pleased to finally share one of my favorites with my kids! As a writer, the idea of beating writers' block by turning in two thousand words about anything is pleasing and reassuring to me. As a parent, seeing the way the parents deal with their children and the chaos around them is also pleasing and reassuring, and I had forgotten how much sly humor there is about the parents. And it holds up well for children, too. My kids loved it, though (since we read it aloud over a month's time) I did ...more
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.


Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
...This is brilliant. And to think I was nervous about reading it, after Eight Days of Luke didn't work for me! This is very much in the vein of Eight Days of Luke, actually, but whereas I found that novel derivative, this is original and surprising and densely plotted - and it feels new and somehow grounded, because of its amazing familial interactions, even in the ridiculous lengths it eventually goes to.

Sometimes it's a bit too self-aware, particularly when Quentin is griping:
"Well, [writer
Feb 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
J C Steel
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've liked this book for decades. In fact, the edition I have is old enough to still have 'mail to this address with postage enclosed' book order forms in the back.

While it was YA before YA was mainstream, the characters are perfectly plausible, there's no love triangle (can it still be YA, in that case???) :) and the atmosphere of 1980s UK is perfectly evoked.

What it does contain, which to me has always been one of the key components of YA, is an otherwise unremarkable, imperfect teen protagoni
J.M. Stengl
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ahhh! Another DWJ book. I've owned this one for a while, sort of keeping it around as something extra special to anticipate. And all that anticipation was rewarded: This story is delightful. Now I want to read it again so I can better appreciate its complexity!
Other reviewers have explained its brilliance--I won't try to repeat or compete.
Just . . . read it and enjoy!
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
Dec 18, 2007 rated it it was ok
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.
at this point, I don't even know what to say, only that it might be the saddest thing about my life that there's no hope I'll ever meet Diana Wynne Jones, ever
Glen Engel-Cox
Jan 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: amazon
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If ever there is a day when I don't love one of Diana Wynne Jones' books, I shall either be ashamed of myself for losing that bit of myself that appreciates her particular humor and writing style, or I'll be disappointed that Mrs. Jones didn't quite live up to the standards of greatness that I've come to expect of her works.
As it is, her record still stands, and she's still my favorite author!
Bernice Wong
Aug 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
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!
I've actually read this three or four times, but only recently started tracking my readings through Goodreads, soooo
I needed a comfort read in transitioning back from being in the country of my heart - England - to my so-called life in the desert, so I turned to Diana and the book I think is definitely one of my very favorites of her books. We had an author spotlight on Diana Wynne Jones on our delightful literary tour through England, so I was itching to revisit one of my favorites. I had forgo
R.F. Gammon
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this at the age of about 10 or 11, I guess. To this day, when I'm running late and desperately need the bus to come, I say a prayer to Hathaway under my breath.

My point is, how good must a story be to implant a polytheistic belief system into the brain of a Catholic child strong enough to last for a quarter of a century?
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Howard's ordinary life is turned upside-down when he comes home from school one day to find the Goon sitting in his kitchen. The Goon claims he's from Archer and wants Howard's father to give him two thousand words. But the words are only the beginning. Howard's town is ruled by seven siblings who want nothing more than to be released from their confinement here so they can take over the world . . .

This is probably my favorite Diana Wynne Jones book (tied with Dark Lord of Derkholm). I love the
Aug 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Zach Sparks
Nov 15, 2011 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
Jun 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 24, 2013 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
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Archer's Goon by Diana Wynne Jones is very well created in the way that she starts her story off as it is created in a regular world and then flips that upside down in the next few pages. You can explain the writing as going from zero to one hundred or "Jumping right into the action. Right as she introduces a character named goon things are carefully explained in a way that still leaves you wanting more from the story and the author in general. In no time we find out that it's not a normal world ...more
Jul 14, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Overall a pretty fun, playful book. The last part of the book was quite good, and is probably why the book is rated so highly among other people. However, if I were to take the book as a whole, I'd only give it three stars.

My two issues with the book:
1. The title. It's not really about Archer's Goon. Sure, he's a character there, but he's just not important enough to warrant a title. I'm not sure what I would call the book, but "Archer's Goon" isn't it. I guess that annoys me because books are
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Diana was born in London, the daughter of Marjorie (née Jackson) and Richard Aneurin Jones, both of whom were teachers. When war was announced, shortly after her fifth birthday, she was evacuated to Wales, and thereafter moved several times, including periods in Coniston Water, in York, and back in London. In 1943 her family finally settled in Thaxted, Essex, where her parents worked running an ed ...more

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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…