Since it is after all March Magics / Diana Wynne Jones month, I thought it would be fun to list all the books by that author that I’ve had the pleasure of reading so far, and a few thoughts on them and how I ended up reading them . . . I’m going to list them in order of when I read them, so they’ll be nicely organized by year, though not necessarily chronologically by series!
This may, I fear, be rather long, since I have now read 21 novels, a short story collection, an essay collection, and a smattering of other short stories, so far . . . making 23+ books… not to mention rereading a few… So if you don’t read the whole thing, there is no judgement. 😉 This is mostly for me, anyway . . . a pleasant reminiscence of looking back at my Diana Wynne Jones journey thus far. ^_^
(If I’d coordinated my time better at the START of the month, I suppose I could have divided it into several posts and posted them throughout the month . . . but oh well, better late than never!)
A note: I’m not bothering to put a star-rating on any of these. Diana Wynne Jones books get 5 stars. Period. (Well, that’s not entirely true, I suppose. I did rate one novel, Witch Week, 4 stars, because I was slightly disappointed in the ending; and I have been known to rate a few of the short stories 4 stars; and one short story I quite disliked. So you see, there are exceptions to every rule… but on the whole: 5 stars all the way!)
The titles all link to Goodreads.
Howl’s Moving Castle
Read: March 14 ’12
My very first book by Diana Wynne Jones, how fitting that it should have been this one — still my favorite of all — and that it should have been during March as well! I had several close calls and almost didn’t read it at all! I was recommended this book quite some time ago by a cousin who has superior taste in books, to whom I’m forever indebted for introducing me to this book which now ties for my favorite with The Lord of the Rings. I rather forgot about the recommendation for awhile . . . and then stumbled across Howl’s Moving Castle at a library sale. I remember I almost hadn’t gone, since I was definitely far too busy and had no business going. I remember that I saw the title, thought “ah! I remember being recommended this . . .!” and picked it up. I also remember, specifically, almost putting it back a couple times, because it looked so odd. I’m very glad I didn’t! At last the humorous-sounding back, with the high praise of a recommendation from my cousin, won me over in spite of the utterly weird cover. Never judge a book by its cover has never been a more apt phrase! This is still my top favorite DWJ book, Howl is still my favorite character, and I hold all the later ones to this standard of excellence. It’s simply a PERFECT book and I love everything about it. ^_^
House of Many Ways
Read: Nov 5 ’12
Remember, remember, the fifth of November… because that’s when I read my second Diana Wynne Jones book. 😉 I had no clue that Howl’s Moving Castle had any sequels — even as loose of “sequels” as it has — since this was before my time of Goodreads. But I remember somehow finding out there were sequels and getting excited. Then — oh joy! — I sighted this book at another library sale and snatched it up. So even though I was too busy to read due to NaNoWriMo, I read this book in a day all the same. I found it somewhat creepier than Howl’s Moving Castle, but a delight and so HILARIOUS, not to mention the best thing about it, namely Twinkle. Oh my goodness, TWINKLE. XD
Dark Lord of Derkholm
Read: Nov 14 – Dec 13 ’12
I found Dark Lord of Derkholm at the same library sale as House of Many Ways, and specifically remembered being recommended it alongside Howl’s Moving Castle… and once again I almost didn’t get it due to the cover. But I did anyway. I was so glad I did. I didn’t “get” it for a long time, but it was great fun to read and I hope to reread it soon. But the shenanigans — oh, I loved them! (Once I got used to them.) All the characters and insane happenings and fantasy creatures . . . it was glorious. I named my cat after one of the griffins, Callette.
Castle in the Air
Jan 7-8, ’13
It was only after I had read House of Many Ways that I found out that the other sequel, Castle in the Air, was actually chronologically BEFORE that one, after Howl’s Moving Castle. Oh well. I promptly got it from the library and devoured it and it was hilarious. The twists I for the most part did NOT see coming. It was so different but I loved it! Especially the relationship between Abdullah and the Soldier — so much humor!
Read: Feb 20 ’13
Also a library-sale find, I decided to eat this one next, but I’m afraid I didn’t really “get” this one at first either, since it’s a collection of short stories connected with the Chrestomanci series. I knew that they were fascinating stories, and that I was already addicted to the character Chrestomanci, even after only seeing him in a very few pages — his dressing gowns! — but this one left me a bit nonplussed at the time. I don’t think it’s a good introduction to the world(s) of Chrestomanci, but I didn’t know that then. Still, it was quite enjoyable; and I really loved it the second time I read it, once I’d read the rest of the series.
Year of the Griffin
Read: Mar 12-13, ’13
I now own this one, but at the time, I found it from the library, completely excited there should be a sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm! It was great fun as well, though a mite hazy in my mind now… I loved the griffins though. And I hope to reread it soon too.
At this point I reread Howl’s Moving Castle — starting it on May Day! How appropriate! — and it was even more glorious the second time! All the twists and things that you don’t get the first time . . . I think all Diana Wynne Jones books beg to be read at least twice… possibly more. 😉 Especially this one! ❤ Both because they are wonderful and need to be devoured more than once, and because they are so complex with so many twists and mind-rearranging necessary that it will be QUITE a different read the second time around! And it will probably take a third (at least) to fully appreciate.
Cart and Cwidder
Read: Jan 31 ’14
At yet another library sale, I found a collection of the first two Dalemark books. I read this one in a day. It was utterly different from her other books I’d read — for one thing, it was an older one; for another, it was entirely set in another world with no connections to ours; and for a third, though it was funny from time to time, it wasn’t AS funny as often before. It was a new look at her books for me . . . and I realized that she could write amazing epic fantasy as well (with muskets!!).
Read: Feb 5 ’14
Needless to say, that same week I devoured the next one. It was utterly strange too and I had fun trying to piece together connections with the first one, since it was mostly off by itself. It was so strange but I loved it (which . . . kinda stands for all of her books. ;)).
Read: Feb 24 ’14
So then I had to rush out and find the next book in the series, from the library (except now I own it in a collection of its own! Oh joy!). This one was even stranger than Ammet, but I enjoyed it a ton. One of the things I like about her books is that they are all so DIFFERENT even in series. And this was the first time I really noticed the sibling relationship thing she had going (though thinking back, it was largely in Derkholm as well). It was wonderful, and I love how well she can juggle so many characters, especially in one family!
Reflections: On the Magic of Writing
Read: Aug 15-23 ’14
At this point, I had learned there was a collection of nonfiction essays on writing and other books and such lovely things, written by Diana Wynne Jones, and that my library had it, so I simply had to get it. It was SUCH a delight! I have a tendency to not read much in the way of nonfiction, but when I do, I often find it through liking an author’s fiction and therefore being rather assured that I’ll enjoy their nonfiction thoughts. So much wonderfulness in this book. ❤
The Crown of Dalemark
Read: Sept 6-11 ’14
I had tragically not had time to read this one when I read Spellcoats, so I got it from the library again and commenced on a truly fascinating journey. This was the first one that I read that was ENORMOUS. So I didn’t devour it in a day like I do with most. As usually, it started out being extremely odd, but I was so fascinated and excited with the goings-on in this one! For one thing, it started tying together the three previous books! Characters I had loved on their own were now starting to meet up with other ones, which was glorious. For another thing, it did the most brilliant thing I had ever seen: time travel. In a fantasy world. *flails* I. LOVED. THIS. It has some modern-type setting with trains and stuff, and then the almost-medieval-but-with-muskets time period the first two had, and then also linked in with the mythic pre-historic time that was like pre-medieval with more magical stuff. And it blended these all seamlessly, along with all the plots from the previous books, as well as its own plot, and so many rivalries and things between all the oodles of characters whom I loved, and just LKJLDKJALKDSJLFJ IT WAS AMAZING!!! It was really the ending that got me on this one. It was so flaily and unexpected and perfect and it left me an incoherent wreck of squealy awesomeness-overload. It was my favorite book I read in 2014 and became my favorite DWJ read after Howl’s Moving Castle.
Read: Dec 11 ’14
Ah, classic Chrestomanci! This is what I hold as a standard for the later books in the series. I was instantly addicted. Loved this one! Cat Chant is a good hero and I want to live at Chrestomanci Castle (“I belong to Chrestomanci Castle!”) and Chrestomanci himself is awesome. This book is just… well, classic! I want to reread it… and the whole series…
The Lives of Christopher Chant
Read: Dec 15 ’14
I was a bit surprised with this one. It was interesting to get Christopher’s backstory as a kid, though he wasn’t quite . . . himself, yet. But it was really good too. I loved all the different world things! And it was cool to get to find out where some of the things came from, like the cat and Milly of course, and Christopher/Chrestomanci himself. 🙂
Read: Jan 18 ’15
I knew that this one was later in the series (even though, chronologically, it was directly after The Lives of Christopher Chant and before Charmed Life) but I didn’t care. It was about Christopher Chant the future Chrestomanci who’s my FAVORITE, as a TEEN . . . and I simply had to read it right away! I think it’s my favorite in the series besides the last one… and the first one… But it was so FABULOUS!! I loved it to smithereens, especially young Christopher and Conrad’s relationship. I ADORE buddy stories! Especially when they annoy each other. XD
The Magicians of Caprona
Read: Feb 18 ’15
So then I had to devour the second collection of Chrestomanci books which I owned, starting with this one. One of the few downsides to the series is that Chrestomanci himself isn’t in them all the time, since they each usually follow different heroes/heroines, and he usually only shows up later on for a bit. But still, they’re all delightful! This one was great fun, set in a magical Italian type of setting. I loved this one.
Read: Mar 4 ’15
This was the one, also in said collection, that I actually didn’t quite rate 5 stars; just for the ending. You’d think it would be for some other reason, like that it was set mostly at a school, which I normally don’t enjoy… And yet other than the end, this was actually one of my favorites of the Chrestomanci books! I found it to be great fun, trying to piece things together and keep track of the characters, and Chrestomanci himself when he (finally) arrives, is in top form as always! I just… was a little bit sad about the ending, and other people probably won’t mind and I won’t say what it WAS, but I wished there had been a little… something different. Still, it was great overall, and actually led to one of my favorite quotes. 🙂
The Pinhoe Egg
Read: Mar 9 ’15
AAAHH THIS BOOK! ❤ It’s the only Chrestomanci book I don’t actually own, which is entirely TRAGIC since it’s my favorite of them all! We’re back to Cat in this one, and Chrestomanci Castle, so it feels all comfortable and you’re glad to be back and makes you think of the first book, but there’s still lots of other new things going on and just all of the messes, and Chrestomanci’s in it a bit more and there’s a GRIFFIN and just alksdjfldkj I love it so much and need to reread it. CHRESTOMANCI! ❤
At this point, I had a rereading stretch.
I reread Mixed Magics that March, since I had finally read all of the other Chrestomanci books, and I LOVED it this read-through.
Then I managed to get my lovely bookclub on Goodreads to read the Howl trilogy; hey, I’ll take any excuse to reread Howl. 😉 So I re-read Howl’s Moving Castle in March-April, Castle in the Air I devoured once again on a day in July, and House of Many Ways I read again in August.
Read: Aug 22 ’15
Yet another library book, I have an oddly incomplete memory of reading this book… o.o But I know I enjoyed it muchly, that it was characteristically funny and odd and fantastical, and that I loved the characters of Aiden and Andrew and so on. Also, a minor thing, but one of my favorite proposal scenes. XD And I loved the furniture moving and the vegetables. *giggle* (For some reason it made me think of Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit… just a little.) Also it made me make some shortbread cookies. Diana Wynne Jones books usually make me want to eat things (usually cucumber sandwiches and other sandwiches…).
Power of Three
Read: Sept 23 ’15
I don’t know WHY it took me so long to read this one… I’d had it from one of my many library sales for a long time… I think the cover wasn’t appealing. 😛 Anyways I finally read it and loved it so much! It has SUCH an enormous twist like half-way through… I just loved the twists in this one… Half of it feels like a medieval fantasy sort of thing, and the other half . . . well, I don’t want to spoil it. 😉 Oh, and the family dynamic was fun to read too. She’s so good about writing amazing and realistic but hilarious families! The style of writing was more like the Dalemark books and less like her characteristic whimsical voice… but there was that ONE scene (you’ll know if you’ve read it) that suddenly the style switched to her more normal one, and it was the most hilarious part of the book and the characters were drunk and it was 100% classic DWJ writing and I loved it. XD Anyways, this book was, again, so DIFFERENT and I loved so many of the characters.
Read: Nov 10 ’15
I had positively no business reading anything during such a busy and insane NaNoWriMo as this year proved to be. But I had scored this one at a library sale at the beginning of the month, and simply could NOT resist reading it as soon as I could. Oh my GOODNESS, what a wild ride! O_O It was utterly HILARIOUS (surprise…?) and had such a number of plot twists I was just flabbergasted most of the time… The characters are splendid too, especially reading about the siblings that are all so different. And it seamlessly blends contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi, and a bit of time travel both forward and back and just alskdjfldkj it’s AMAZING. It goes right up there with my favorites. MY BRAIN IS STILL REELING FROM PLOT TWISTS. Since my favorite is Howl’s Moving Castle, which can stand alone, and two of my other favorites happen to be the finale to their series (The Pinhoe Egg and The Crown of Dalemark) if you read just ONE Diana Wynne Jones book besides Howl’s Moving Castle, probably try to make it this once since it stands alone and is mind-blowing. 😛
2016 – so far
Fire and Hemlock
Read: Jan 1 ’16
*flailing softly* This book though! ❤ I wrote a long and rambly review-ish thing for it, so I will not reiterate all of it. But it was so awesome and I was so glad it was that big because I wanted to live in it forever and it was so worth staying up till past 3 a.m. to read it. I loved it so so much and Tom is one of my favorites and I’m slightly addicted to the idea of Tam Lin retellings now and need to go find several to read…
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland
Read: Jan 28 – Feb 13 ’16
This one has the most exotic story about how I acquired it of any of the others… I found it at a Half-Price Books store in another state as a Christmas present of sorts from a wonderful uncle while I was on a roadtrip that memorable time when I was trying to do NaNo on the road… Since it’s organized as an A-Z guidebook, I had read most of it through randomly flipping through, but this year I finally sat down and read it cover to cover, and it was so funny to see all the tropes and cliches — but also ideas! Bwahaha — of my favorite genre… It’s half poking-fun, half homage to fantasy, and it’s fantastic. XD
Read: Mar 22-23 ’16
And here we have my latest! I snagged it at the library specifically for March Magics and I’m so glad I did! I fully hope/expect (maybe) to try to write a review for it this week… if I can… But for now, it was very . . . different. o.o (Surprise. XD) It was darker, I think, than any I’d read before, but I loved it (of course) and am very proud of myself for exercising restraint and only staying up till 2:30 a.m. reading it and finishing it the next day. Heehee. It’s rather dangerous to start a 400 page DWJ book late. 😛
Misc. Short Stories
I have also, at various times, read three “random” (i.e. in other collections) short stories by Diana Wynne Jones. These are they. (Short story collections are notoriously hit-and-miss. I haven’t read all of these through yet. But I had to pick out the Diana Wynne Jones ones. ;))
- JoBoy (in The Dragon Book edited by Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois) – 2 stars. This is the only thing by her I’ve specifically disliked that I’ve read so far. I didn’t quite get it, it was dark and depressing and ENTIRELY the wrong thing to read when I was ill one time. >.> Brilliant, yes, with some good bits, but too scary for my taste.
- I’ll Give You My Word (in Firebirds Rising edited by Sharyn November) – 4 stars. This one was a lot of fun, with lots of strange and long words — loved a lot of it!
- Little Dot (in Firebirds edited by Sharyn November) – 5 stars. Oh my goodness, this story! It’s all from the point of view of a cat, and she refers to her owner, Henry, as if she’s the one who owns him, and they live on a farm in England and he’s a magician but nobody seems to know it, and there are several other cats, and shenanigans ensue and it’s marvelous fun. Who know a cat’s POV could be such fun!
2012: 3 books
2013: 3 books (+ 1 reread)
2014: 7 books
2015: 7 books (+ 4 rereads)
2016: 3 books . . . and counting!! 🙂
= 23 so far
So there you have my Diana Wynne Jones journey up to this point (there was also seeing the Howl’s Moving Castle movie, which is another story and which I also love, despite its enormous differences from the book, though I still like the book better).
I’m looking forward to continuing this journey, both rereading old friends and discovering new ones! Thank goodness she wrote a lot of books, so I’m not out quite yet. 😉
Have you read any of these? Or any of DWJ’s books that I haven’t read yet? (Any recommendations??) If you HAVEN’T read any . . . well what are you waiting for?? No better time than the present. 😉
Thanks for reading! (*whistles innocently and pretends not to notice that this post is over 3K words long*)