It's getting there. After two books that were really only about the jokes, this one is really about the story. It's a cracking story, but not as polisIt's getting there. After two books that were really only about the jokes, this one is really about the story. It's a cracking story, but not as polished as later titles, and the central narrative hook doesn't give room for the same sense of satirical parody that later ones do.
There's no such thing as a bad Terry Pratchett. If I were forced to be locked in a room with only this and the complete works of Jeffrey Archer, then my toilet and heating needs would have been taken care of and I'd still have this to enjoy. But for me it's not one I rush to reread. Maybe it's because I'm male?...more
It took two goes, but this is the one where Pratchett nailed it. He found a way to balance a character-driven plot with the social commentary that subIt took two goes, but this is the one where Pratchett nailed it. He found a way to balance a character-driven plot with the social commentary that subsequently became his trademark, without sacrificing the jokes (from sophisticated satire through to groanworthy puns) that had made the Colour of Magic and the Light Fantastic such good fun.
Sure, it isn't quite as clever as some of the later ones, nor is it quite as sharp. But for proper emotional character investment, it is splendid. The tragedy of Princess Keli is marvellously depicted, and the woes of Mort as he slowly realises what he has done are hilarious and sad at the same time.
But of course the real genius was taking the slightly cynical Death that we glimpse in his fruitless pursuit of Rincewind and transforming him into this engaging anthropomorphic personification - an idea that he later brought to perfection in Small Gods.
For a decade or so, this was the Discworld book I used to use to introduce people to Pratchett. Now, of course, I barely meet anyone who hasn't read him. Which is great. ...more
One of the truly amazing things about this book is that it works in its own right. Even though it is packed with allusions (most significantly to JustOne of the truly amazing things about this book is that it works in its own right. Even though it is packed with allusions (most significantly to Just William), unlike some titles the authors don't flaunt this but simply let the story flow in the most magical way - and unless you notice, you don't notice (if that makes sense?!) A joy from start to finish....more
Perhaps my favourite anecdote about this book is that Neil Gaiman said that he had to rewrite American Gods because he got to the end and realised thaPerhaps my favourite anecdote about this book is that Neil Gaiman said that he had to rewrite American Gods because he got to the end and realised that he'd just rewritten this.
The real joy here is the slow-burning realisation of what is going on. The care with which Wynne Jones constructs the plot to ensure that the characters only appear on the appropriate "days" is only really apparent on a re-read, and the book is good enough to survive that without trouble. ...more
You'd never get the impression from reading her other books that Diana Wynne Jones could possibly write anything like this - not in the humorous elemeYou'd never get the impression from reading her other books that Diana Wynne Jones could possibly write anything like this - not in the humorous element, because that's evident from everything she does, but in the viciousness with which she attacks and brilliantly dissects everything that's wrong in "fantasy"; even the acknowledged classics come in for a little bit of a subtle beating here.
I understand that the genesis for this book arose from research she did for the wonderful Encyclopaedia of Fantasy, which required her to devour countless volumes of good, bad and indifferent novels; this was the inevitable result of piles of research notes.
Every page is filled with gems (the entry on Horses is particularly fine, both for the observation about talking whilst riding and the one about pollination) and the fun of following the different trails as you almost create your own adventure is difficult to match.
Anyone who loves fantasy (yes, even the dreadful stuff) will adore this book, from Adepts to Zombies......more
"Below average" Diana Wynne Jones is still better than almost everyone else. And this is, sadly, below average. The story is as clever as usual, but J"Below average" Diana Wynne Jones is still better than almost everyone else. And this is, sadly, below average. The story is as clever as usual, but Jamie simply isn't interesting enough to support it (the tragedy of his life is far too understated, even when his own point-of-view filter is taken into account), and the resolution is as rushed as ever.
But her mastery of story is still evident - a bunch of well-worn clichés somehow feel new and alive again merely by their collision, and the backstory works ingeniously. Don't expect a masterpiece and you won't be disappointed....more
I can normally handle DWJ's intricate plots, even the ones with time travel. But this one still makes my head hurt (in a good way.) The twist catchesI can normally handle DWJ's intricate plots, even the ones with time travel. But this one still makes my head hurt (in a good way.) The twist catches you almost totally by surprise, even when you can see something is coming, and multi-threaded story fits together perfectly if you take the time to step back and look at it carefully.
I can't think of many novels that attempt something this complex, let alone ones classed as "young adult". The fact that the story and characters are also highly engaging pushes this into my top list....more
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 foThere'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 finalé doesn't feel rushed.
This is the book I use to introduce people to DWJ. A classic....more
One of those strange examples of a story set before another but which loses something if you read/see it first (others being things like The Magician'One of those strange examples of a story set before another but which loses something if you read/see it first (others being things like The Magician's Nephew and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.)
So this story is set a generation before Charmed Life and it follows much the same model: it's about how the greatest magician of the world discovers his destiny, resents it but eventually comes to terms with it.
One of the things I like about DWJ is her careful attention to detail in the plotting, something that is strikingly absent from far too many YA titles, despite the fact that children are often far more capable of picking up and following complex stories than a lot of adults. Here the opening chapters are littered with careful setups that get paid off later in the story, some blatant and others far more subtle. But when they do get revealed, you feel that sense of pleasure that there was no real cheating going on, no Deus ex Machina to explain things at the last minute (although perhaps the Tacroy plot doesn't quite work.)
Sure there are still structure issues - there's a lot of effort taken to introduce the school characters and then they merely disappear completely, but I can also see that Christopher couldn't have his second set of off-world adventures in the family home and a boarding school works fine (and it sets up the Goddess quite nicely too.) And it seems to take Christopher a long time to realise what the Wraith is, although to be fair that's a standard literary trope. The sudden detour into Series Eleven right in the middle of a tense stand-off slightly undermines it, and then it is resolved a little too quickly for an idea that deserved a lot more attention. But for me these didn't feel like obstacles; if anything they felt as though there was a longer book struggling to get out here; but 25 years ago a children's book couldn't be 500 pages..!
Of course another reason DWJ scores is that her characters are so much fun. Christopher himself is perhaps a little bland, although the scene when he realises how pompous and stuck up he had been behaving is exceptionally good. But the rest of the supporting cast are beautifully drawn, with even the passing-through getting distinct personalities (who else would come up with Doctor Pawson and his mother?) and she does a fine job of depicting the worlds through them.
For me this is a strong entry in the Chrestomanci series, but I suspect that's partly because the ones actually about Chrestomanci are inherently more interesting than stories just set in the same universe (even though the universe is good fun.) Perhaps not as good as Charmed Life, but still an easy four stars....more