A Dark Day for the Fantasy World

I just read Jessica Day George’s blog post.

Then I read the top part again.

I just couldn’t believe it.  Diana Wynne Jones – dead?

I grew up reading Diana Wynne Jones’ books.  I learned about Alternate Universes and Magic from her Chrestomanci books.  I learned to read on those books – I can remember my family reading Witch Week or The Nine Lives of Christopher Chant around the dinner table.  Eventually, I got so impatient with the family drifting into other books that I picked them up and read them through myself.

It was quite some time later that I found other books by Jones that my mom had squirreled away.  Howl’s Moving Castle (which, by the way, I’ve always felt is much better than the movie), its sequel Castle In The Air….  there’s a third one now, which is also good – The House of Many Ways.  The Ogre Downstairs is one I remember reading over and over again;   The Dark Lord of Dirkholm, its sequel The Year of the Griffin….

I remember reading The Dalemark Quartet (The Spellcoats, Drowned Ammet, Cart and Cwidder and The Crown of Dalemark) several times, and never quite understanding everything about the last book.  Or, maybe I did while reading it but became confused while thinking about it later.  Most of her books have been like that for me.

One summer, I decided to go on a Diana Wynne Jones marathon and requested as many of her books from the library as I could find.  Yes, it was somewhat impulsive, but I read several of her books that I’d never heard of – Archer’s Goon (which has since become a favorite), Dogsbody (which is all that Jessica Day George says of it and more), The Eight Days of Luke (a terrific modern-day story enchanted with Norse mythology), The Homeward Bounders (I don’t remember much except that it was good, though the ending was dreadfully sad), Hexwood… the list goes on.

Many of the authors I enjoyed while growing up were from the far past (or so it seemed).  L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, The Secret Garden, Little Lord Fauntleroy, Black Beauty, Jack London’s The Call of the Wild and White Fang….  I was pleasantly surprised when my mom let me in on a secret some years after I started reading – Diana Wynne Jones was still living and writing.  Not only that, but in the last several years, my favorite series of all time – Chrestomanci, of course – gained two more books – two!  After years of believing it was a closed series – all stories told and laid to rest – The Pinhoe Egg and Conrad’s Fate were absolute delights.

I cannot tell everything I feel about her books.  They always catch me by surprise – wonderfully convoluted, yet charmingly simple.  I can never quite remember how a plot twists and turns, which drives me to read it again – but far from boring, it’s an adventure every time.  I’ve always valued her books as the epitome of the fantasy genre.  I’ve loved her character descriptions, which always depict complex and understandable people in a few witty words.

She was an amazing author.  The fantasy world mourns her loss.


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