Better than Harry Potter! The late great Diana Wynne Jones...

(72 Posts)
hardtostayfocused Fri 16-Aug-13 20:07:34

I'm still palpitating at the number of DWJ novels which appeared in the fantastic AIBU fictional parents thread. (For those not yet in the know she was one of the best children's fantasy novelists of the last 40 years...)

The first one I read was 8 Days of Luke (showing my age...) and I loved Charmed Life and The Ogre Downstairs as a child, and was thrilled by The Time of the Ghost and Fire and Hemlock as a teen.

Then, in my 20s, realised to my delight that she was still turning out a fine book a year, so collected all those too!

I know there are a few other obsessive fans out there... please come and share. Which is your favourite?

<Sits in corner, shaking slightly, chanting "Chrestomanci!">

Ablababla Fri 16-Aug-13 20:10:32

I love DWJ! I like any of the Christopher Chant one tbh. I love how she can just take you instantly to a world that's do alien at yet familiar and you instantly feel at home. Don't think I have read them all either.

Jux Fri 16-Aug-13 20:13:13

I love her too. When did she die?

I haven't read all of her books by any means. My favourite so far is the one where there is a stained glass window..... Oh bother I'll have to find it and re-read.

pointythings Fri 16-Aug-13 20:14:12

My favourite one is probably Hexwood, I like her YA stuff because she writes adolescents so well. Though I also really like Fire and Hemlock and the Homeward Bounders.

I have everything she has ever written and reread them frequently, she just never disappoints. And of course fantasising about Chrestomanci whiles away those boring hours so very well...

Pachacuti Fri 16-Aug-13 20:17:42

I love DWJ, although I haven't read all of them yet (rationing myself given that there will be no more). The first one I read was Wilkins' Tooth, and I'm not sure whether I have a favourite, or at least not a steady unchanging favourite.

She was amazing. I think Howls Moving Castle and Powrr of Three are my favourites. She had such range and was such a strong world builder. Tbh, I did find her adult books slightly less enjoyable. Worth looking at Sarah Rees Brennan, a young writer who is a fan of dwj, and whose own books are very good.

And I suspect JKR would have read DWJ, so probably an influence even if not a conscious one.

JustBecauseICan Fri 16-Aug-13 20:20:43

Well.......I had this writer recommended to me when I was moaning (again) about how rubbish JK is as a writer, (despite the premise of her plots being very good) and I bought a couple of Chrestomanci books.

I thought they were shit. Couldn't work out what the feck was going on and yer man himself seemed pervy. blush

I have obviously missed something- and other friends have told me to try again so could somebody tell me what to try? (possibly not Chrestomanci?)

JustBecauseICan Fri 16-Aug-13 20:21:35

That was it- Howl's Moving Castle. I read that and thought wtf? <gets coat>

hardtostayfocused Fri 16-Aug-13 20:40:42

talkingnonsense Which would you call her adult books? The only one I can think of that is really not for children is... ah... can't remember the title - the one set in a hotel for a science fiction convention... oh wossit called? (It's one of the only 2 or 3 that I don't own so can't look it up, but I've read it from the library twice and I really like it.)

PiratePanda Fri 16-Aug-13 20:42:32

Love love love love Cart and Cwidder. It was one of my favourite books as a child and I read it again and again and again.

Woodhead Fri 16-Aug-13 20:43:11

8 days of Luke was my first as well. I read it as a young teen and was blown away. I particularly loved the notion that a child didn't need to feel grateful for basic care. I loved Luke, and I loved the fact that I didn't already know all the norse mythology, so didn't really "get it" until right at the end.

However, my ultimate favourite is Hexwood. It was one of the few books that when I got to the end I immediately started again. There's just so much shifting in it, I love the way she messes with time and space and lets you think something is true, when really it's an illusion that you don't catch up with until much later. Mordian Agenos reliving his childhood trapped in a web of pain, must be one of the most profound and deeply traumatic parts I've ever come across in a children's book. Truly heart-wrenching.

Will chat more later-brilliant thread.

PiratePanda Fri 16-Aug-13 20:43:47

Also a big fan of Ursula Le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea series (but not the fifth book as it was complete shote£.

PiratePanda Fri 16-Aug-13 20:44:01

Ahem. Shite.

hardtostayfocused Fri 16-Aug-13 20:46:25

JustBecauseICan Personally I don't think Howl's Moving Castle is one of her strongest - though still like it - I think there may be odd plot gap here and there... Most of her books do involve some kind of time/dimension travelling and the plots are pretty baffling so.....

But you could try The Ogre Downstairs, which has more of a grounding in real life than most. And Witch Week is fun (though Chrestomanci makes a fleeting appearance).

Pachacuti Fri 16-Aug-13 20:47:04

Power of Three might be a good one. It's quite linear. Or maybe Black Maria.

If you found the Chrestomanci books hard to follow then for the love of deity-of-choice steer clear of Hexwood and Fire and Hemlock grin. I think too that you really need to read Charmed Life followed by The Lives of Christopher Chant to make head or tale of the Chrestomanci series (if that's what you did then pfft, I wash my hands of you wink) and TBH I don't care hugely for the others in that series.

Wearytiger Fri 16-Aug-13 20:50:22

I love DWJ. About three years ago I picked up a copy of Howl's Moving Castle. I didn't think I'd read it but suddenly I was transported back to my childhood... I have always had a vague memory of a slightly petulant fire sprite but never known where from, and there he was in the book... It was Calcifer! It's the very first book I ever read aloud to my daughter as well. I suspect I would have the same experience with a few more of her books as well as there are bits I remember but probably didn't understand ... Is there one where eight brothers control a town including utilities etc? Also there are little turns of phrase that I think I got from her that I will never forget eg 'great sticky cliffs' of marmalade. She is an incredibly evocative writer I think, and like JKR (and George rr Martin as well) I think her choice of names is absolutely inspired.

Pachacuti Fri 16-Aug-13 20:50:35

I think The Time Of The Ghost isn't really a children's book, although it could probably squeeze in as young adult. And A Sudden Wild Magic is more of an adult book.

Pachacuti Fri 16-Aug-13 20:51:04

Wearytiger, the one with the brothers is Archer's Goon .

A sudden wild magic, deep secret and changeover were originally marketed for adults. However iirc, the sequel to deep secret is definitely young adult/ teen/ ya/ however you describe it! I'm also less keen on the books for younger children like Wilkins tooth.

Charmed life is a v good place to start, also ogre downstairs or spell coats if you like "proper " fantasy.

Howl is the funniest! And the film was interesting.

8 days of Luke also an excellent stand alone and interesting if you like Neil gaimans American gods- gaiman and DWJ were friends I believe.

Yy, archers goon also v funny! Power corrupts, but we need electricity!

pointythings Fri 16-Aug-13 21:00:14

I keep forgetting Black Maria, definitely another of my favourites. DWJ also does enigmatic men very well.

The whole Dalemark series does read like 'proper' fantasy, but seen through the eyes of children and all the better for it.

I wish I could stay on this thread but am about to go on holiday and completely off grid, and hoping it keeps going for a fortnight may be pushing it. flowers cake [but still no chocolate emoticon!!!]

tumbletumble Fri 16-Aug-13 21:04:59

Another DWJ fan here! I think my favourites are Power of Three, Charmed Life, Dogsbody and Fire and Hemlock. Looking forward to my DC being old enough to read them.

Wearytiger Fri 16-Aug-13 21:06:10

Archers goon! Archers goon! That's it. All I remember is the title. But I do remember the title. Off to amazon now...

I quite fancy treating myself so can anyone give me a list of DWJ to buy? I would like to buy the chrestomanci series, what does that comprise of? And then is there another series as well? Is Archer's Goon standalone? I am very completionist about these things.

Wearytiger Fri 16-Aug-13 21:06:41

I've read Howl and the sequel definitely btw. But the rest are list in the mists of childhood.

ArtemisCake Fri 16-Aug-13 21:16:20

Wearytiger, every time I have marmalade I remember the sticky brown cliffs too grin

Pachacuti Fri 16-Aug-13 21:17:15

Wearytiger good list here.

Wearytiger Fri 16-Aug-13 21:20:56

Thank you pachacuti that's brilliant!

Sconset Fri 16-Aug-13 21:35:35

jux she died March 2011- I remember Neil Gaiman tweeting it, and he'd just visited her (as he adores her work too).

hardtostayfocused Fri 16-Aug-13 21:39:59

wearytiger Archer's Goon is standalone.

I've just counted my collection and I've got 27 titles, but I think I'm missing a few...

Right that's it, I'm going to put a bibliography on this thread. <rubs hands>

pointythings may still be at it when you get back....

hardtostayfocused Fri 16-Aug-13 21:40:52

x post *parachuti" damn Wiki, someone's got there before me...

hardtostayfocused Fri 16-Aug-13 21:47:44

Just noticed that there's another posthumous work coming out next year, completed by her sister. The Islands of Chaldea - one to look forward to!

The dalemark quartet is fantastic, I have always loved DWJ and my daughter has just devoured Charmed Life, I was very happy that she liked it.

She rushed downstairs shouting that she had finished it, " I'm so excited, I think I am turning into a bookworm Mummy!"

Jux Fri 16-Aug-13 22:18:54

Oh yes, love the Dalemark quartet.

How on earth did I miss her death? I used to look her up from time to time, but probably last time was about 2010. Am so sad. Hate it when authors die.

Pachacuti Fri 16-Aug-13 23:22:54

You might appreciate Neil Gaiman's tribute, Jux.

Jux Sat 17-Aug-13 00:36:16

Thanks, Pachacuti. One piece by Gaiman I actually liked.

Spikeinhiscoat Sat 17-Aug-13 06:34:04

We had a supply teacher at school who read us one of her books. It may have been Eight Days of Luke, I can't remember, but that one started me off with dwj. My favourites are Charmed Life, and Howl's Moving Castle. I also really like one I can't remember the name of at the moment, but it's the one with then griffins. I remember feeling a bit indignent on her behalf when Harry Potter came out, and such a fuss was made about a book about children and wizardry which had apparently never been done before.

JustBecauseICan Sat 17-Aug-13 09:20:54

I am going to retry, because I feel I would really love them....

Woodhead Sat 17-Aug-13 09:46:35

I don't think you need to have read the other Chrestomanci to enjoy Witch Week, and it's quite a fun one to start with.
Also Dogsbody is a good stand alone one.

The Griffins are in Magicians of Caprona (one of the Chrestomanci ones)

I'm realising how many I still have to read, only really got into them as an adult and have collected them from Charity shops-I really thought I had most of them, but I'm not close to 27!

Also hadn't realised she'd died. I'm kicking myself that I never went to see her at the book fest, she was often there.

SunnyPath Sat 17-Aug-13 12:00:16

My favourite is The Ogre Downstairs. Loved it as a kid, and DWJ signed my copy when I was about 9. I hadn't read most of her others so have actually read most of them for the first time over the last six months. They vary hugely, from good fun and entertaining, to having no real idea what's going on. Found Cart and Cwidder incredibly boring, but thought Fire and Hemlock fascinating, even if the ending was 'Er wot?' I enjoyed most of Chrestomanci but, again, they vary.

Spikeinhiscoat Sat 17-Aug-13 17:49:44

It wasn't Magicians of Caprona I was thinking of, but The Dark Lord of Derholme. I think that was a standalone book as well.

Pachacuti Sat 17-Aug-13 18:37:50

Cart and Cwidder seems to be like Marmite - every DWJ fan I know loves it beyond reason or really dislikes it.

Pachacuti Sat 17-Aug-13 18:42:33

Year Of The Griffin is the sequel to The Dark Lord Of Derkholm .

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

UniS Sat 17-Aug-13 18:46:55

The "Tough Guide to Fantasy Land" is related to "dark lord of derkholm" Not a novel, but rather an amusing guide book for "tour party members".

I think Enchanted glass is my favourite, but I love the chestomanci set. Dale mark quartet is the latest set I've read , I like the last one more than the 1st.

UniS Sat 17-Aug-13 18:49:49

which is the one with a fantasy convention and " how many miles to babyln"? I read it once and now can;t find it or remember what it was called. def DWJ as it has "nick" who is also in "merlin conspiracy".

TheYamiOfYawn Sat 17-Aug-13 18:59:14

My very favourite is Fire and Hemlock, which was part of the reason I studied Eng Lit at university. I also like Hexwood and the more adult ones.

sleepyhead Sat 17-Aug-13 19:02:40

I think my favourites are Fire & Hemlock and The Spellcoats, but I enjoyed all of them really.

Like the op, I first came across her as a child (The Ogre Downstairs was my first - I remember buying it with a Christmas book token) - and then when I was about 25 I realised she was still writing. Oh the bliss at catching up on all the ones I'd missed!

nooka Sat 17-Aug-13 19:03:33

Total DWJ fan here, and like Spike found it really irritating when everyone fawned over JKR as being 'so imaginative' when DWJ had written so many much better books for such a long time before JKR came on the scene. Still before the success of Harry Potter most of the DWJ books were out of print and then along with a lot of other good fantasy got rediscovered.

However I do think that DWJ's later books weren't nearly as good as her earlier ones. Just slightly missing the magic really.

I think I'd say that Howl's Moving Castle is my favourite because it's the one I turn to when I need a pick me up, but Homewood Bounders and Fire and Hemlock are particularly good, in fact all the stand alone ones are great (although I've never really 'got' a Tale of Time City). I spent years trying to find a copy of Cart and Cwidder (loved Moril but my sister had all the 70's books and took them with her when she left home).

The Dalemarks are really good, and the fourth one really works to bring them together, but I don't really like the sequals to Howl or the later ones in the Chrestomanci world - they feel a bit like potboilers to me.

However having just rewatched the last Harry Potter with dd I can happily say that any DWJ is better than the last HP!

sleepyhead Sat 17-Aug-13 19:24:19

Witch Week was my favourite Chrestomanci one.

I was working in a bookshop when Harry Potter mania started. I took great delight in piling the reissued DWJ books high, and recommending them to anyone who asked about HP. Sold a decent number that way too.

Pachacuti Sat 17-Aug-13 20:51:12

UniS, that.s Deep Secret.

hardtostayfocused Sat 17-Aug-13 21:11:05

I've just reread Power of Three today and really enjoyed it. It's not one of the ones I read countless times as a child, but I can appreciate it now. It is quite tight and extremely well-plotted (JustBecauseICan if you're still there, you might like this one); I think her later books tended to be a bit more sprawling and were probably 100 pages longer (just like all books seem to be longer these days!)

My next treat will be The Homeward Bounders; never owned this one and only read it once as a child and didn't like it so much, but found it in the library today.

This has reminded me that my mum and I both wrote DWJ fan letters in the early 80s (erk - I am becoming my mother!), and we had a very nice reply back. DM had obviously critiqued the naff Homeward Bounders cover art as DWJ replied that unfortunately she didn't usually get much say in it!!

UniS Sat 17-Aug-13 21:52:17

Thank you Pat - now off to amazon to add that to my wish list.

UniS Sat 17-Aug-13 21:58:33

make that - off to amazon to buy a used copy.

nooka Sat 17-Aug-13 22:12:50

My copy of Homeward Bounders is an old hardback with no cover. I think it's one for slightly older readers as it has some quite deep themes. I hope you enjoy it!

Very cool to have letters from DWJ grin

TheOriginalSteamingNit Sat 17-Aug-13 22:45:07

I love DWJ, but much more so the less 'magic' she is. I thought nan's diary about 'real girls' in witch week, for example, and polly's changing friendship with Nina in F&H, were much more compelling than all the magicky stuff.

'there is such a thing as going too far' and 'have I gone it?' are catchphrases in our house.

TabbyM Mon 19-Aug-13 15:40:13

Good to see lots of fellow DWJ fans! Nobody I know in RL likes her except my brother*. The first I remember was The Ogre Downstairs from my local library then had a gap until I discovered Minor Arcana and A Sudden Wild Magic and one of my favourites ever Deep Secret. I reread mine at regular intervals, just finishing The Spellcoats right now. For some reason I only found Dalemark in the last 10 years but I love the last one. Howl is great, I love the griffins too and really Hexwood is the one I like least other than Wilkins Tooth (though I think I haven't read Angus Flint).
* Actually I lent Black Maria to someone at uni who never returned it.

DeWe Mon 19-Aug-13 15:58:08

No one's mentioned The Pinhoe Egg that I've seen. That's my favourite DWJ.
Ogre downstairs I would think was one of the best for starting with. Very funny in places.

Asheth Mon 19-Aug-13 18:30:30

I'm a big fan as you can tell by my name! I love all the Chrestomanci books especially but enjoy everything of hers that i've read.

Colyngbourne Mon 19-Aug-13 19:07:32

If pushed, I would choose Fire & Hemlock above the others, but I couldn't do without Chrestomanci either - I love all the main Chrestomanci books (I'm not counting The Pinhoe Egg but am including Conrad's Fate because Christopher failing to use an iron was hysterical). There's a DWJ book for everyone and every season - The Ogre Downstairs is very very funny and accessible, The Homeward Bounders is heart-breaking (one of my children dressed as Joris the Demon-Hunter for World Book Day once), Black Maria deeply relevant to anyone who has had a relative like Aunt Maria, Cart & Cwidder is my favourite of the Dalemarks, Hexwood is sometimes a little too complex for its own good, Howl is superb too.... Eight Days of Luke was my first so I love that, and then Dogsbody.... probably the ones I like least are the Griffin ones, A Tale of Time City and Power of Three. I think her last few books were weaker, sadly.

Spiritedwolf Tue 20-Aug-13 14:03:43

Love DWJ but not the thread title as Harry Potter is my favourite series ever. I grew up with the Potter series though and didn't discover DWJ till I was in my late teens/early twenties - despite spending a lot of time in the library!

I remember loving "The Merlin Conspiracy" and I came to DWJ via "Howl's Moving Castle". The Chrestomanci books are good too and The Dark Lord of Derkholm is fabulous.

I did read "Fire and Hemlock" but didn't get the ending. Maybe I need to re-read if others love this one?

I'm currently reading the Pickwick Papers (for the first time after getting the complete works of Dickens on kindle) and his choice of names is fantastic too, maybe a tradition that DWJ and JKR followed in?

I love DWJ's handling of the dynamics of families and friends. I was really disappointed when I heard she'd died (quite a bit after the fact), I was a bit surprised I hadn't heard as I'd seen a report of Eva Ibbotson's death when she died and I'm sure DWJ was better known.

In terms of new(er) writers with a flair for fantasy, try Kate Thompson (The New Policeman trilogy - there is also another author with the same name so don't get too confused!). I also love Cornelia Funke, Frances Hardinge, Jonathan Stroud, P.B. Kerr.... and more.

Spiritedwolf Tue 20-Aug-13 14:04:42

Oh, I think Black Maria and Ogre Downstairs were good too... so many!

hardtostayfocused Tue 20-Aug-13 17:58:38

I like Harry Potter too Spiritedwolf, just think it's a shame that so many younger readers don't get to diversify to DWJ (and other great children's fantasy novelists like Susan Cooper and Joan Lingard) who must have influenced JRK.

I read the first of Kate Thompson's New Policeman books a while back - now that I found incomprehensible but perhaps should give it another go. She wrote another trilogy which I found very enjoyable indeed - The Switchers - and strongly recommend to DWJ fans.

Agree with you about Jonathan Stroud. Haven't come across Frances Hardinge or PB Kerr but will check out.

Another contemporary writer I think DWJ fans would enjoy is Julia Golding - she must surely have been a DWJ fan herself. Dragonfly and The Glass Swallow are quite evocative of the Dalemark books. (She's also written a series of historical romps - Cat Royal series - which I love but they're not fantasy.)

Spiritedwolf Tue 20-Aug-13 18:21:42

The one I'm thinking about for Frances Hardinge is "Fly by Night" I think there are sequels now too, and Verdigris Deep. Yes, I'm sure I've read the Switchers. Maybe the incomprehensible bits of New Policeman made me think of DWJ too ;)

P.B. Kerr is quite different but fun - twins who are Djinn - the series begins with Children of the Lamp: The Akhenaten Adventure. In this house we're also fans of Eoin Colfer, Jenny Nimmo and Garth Nix (though we like different series of his best).

I must get back re-reading some DWJ though, might start with the Merlin Conspiracy or the Howl's Moving Castle books, I loved those, then diversify into some of the ones that confused me the last time I read them.

I'll look out for Julia Golding though, I've certainly seen her books in the library.

SoupDragon Tue 20-Aug-13 18:26:34

Oh, I loved Charmed Life and the Chrestmoanci series [sigh]

SoupDragon Tue 20-Aug-13 18:37:59

I tried to read the Dalemark set recently and found them dull. I had enjoyed them as a child so I don't know what's gone wrong!

SoupDragon Tue 20-Aug-13 18:47:10

Dangerous : I think they are mostly available on Kindle!

UniS Wed 21-Aug-13 23:05:06

My copy of "the game" arrived today - I've nearly finished it already.

Woodhead Thu 29-Aug-13 11:48:00

TheOriginalSteamingNit Nan's diary about real and imitation girls, etc is one of the most spot on bits of writing I've ever read about school dynamics. I loved the invisible line between the girls and boys and everyone being allowed to cross it to torment Brian Wentworth.
Nice that she gives them all a happy ending also, I liked the positive epilogue (although I find that more of a fantasy than the magic).

I generally like the magic/fantasy elements though, particularly in something like Fire and Hemlock were it is just an urn twist away from normal reality. I haven't re-read The Ogre Downstairs as an adult as I thought there was a bit to much reality in that one regarding learning to cope with blended families.

Spikeinhiscoat I haven't read the Derkholm series, seems to have mixed opinions on this thread. Must try those ones. I'm quite delighted to realise there are so many I haven't come across yet. Serves me right for just getting them from Charity shops.

virgil Thu 05-Sep-13 18:52:53

so glad I stumbled across this thread. DS1 has come home from school with an I structure that he is to read a Diana Wynne Jones book. The only one I know is The Time of the Ghost, my absolute favourite book as a teenager but way too old for him (he is eight and in year 4). What would you all recommend as the best one for him to start with? He is a very strong reader.

AnyoneButLulu Thu 05-Sep-13 19:07:42

I do like her books, but I think the plotting in many of them is all over the shop, which is why she never sold like Rowling, whose plotting is excellent (Dan Brown sold millions despite being barely able to string a sentence together on the basis of pure plot power).

My tenuous connection to DWJ is that a FOAF's laundry backlog has a supporting role in House of Many Ways.

I would definitely second Frances Hardinge, who can both write and plot superlatively.

Woodhead Thu 05-Sep-13 20:47:48

Virgil it's really subjective.

I'd be tempted to say one of the Chrestomanci ones. Either Charmed Life, or The Lives of Christopher Chant. Charmed life is typically read first, Lives of Christopher Chant is a prequel, but it would still work as a first read. (Both have parallel worlds, magic etc)

Or, possibly Archer's Goon (which is set in normal UK), and has a particularly well written family, with siblings Howard and Awful (his sister), which might be quite appealing to an 8yr old.

Archer's goon is more "normal" reality with some other beings and space travel thrown in (and some signature DWJ playing with time), the Chrestomanci ones are more obvious fantasy and magic.

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