Diana Wynne-Jones has died

by Henry Farrell on March 26, 2011

More “here”:http://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/03/26/diana-wynne-jones/. In an ideal world, she would have had the recognition that J.K. Rowling has gotten and more; still, she did quite well, and wrote books that were adored by many, many children, and by adults (such as myself) who bought them purportedly to read aloud for their offspring. Her _Tough Guide to Fantasyland_, in its original and updated edition, is a very funny and accurate guide to the cliches of the genre.



wkwillis 03.26.11 at 1:59 pm

Eight Days of Luke, Homeward Bounders, Charmed Life…


Frowner 03.26.11 at 2:05 pm

That’s awful news. No more griffin books or Chrestomanci stories ever.

This will forever be the year of awful things great and small.


sanbikinoraion 03.26.11 at 2:11 pm



Margaret 03.26.11 at 2:25 pm

Oh, this is very sad news. My daughter and I shared all of them over the years and I found my daughter, home on spring break just the other day reading The Ogre Downstairs. (Actually she says it was Archer’s Goon.) If I had to name a favorite it would probably be The Dark Lord of Dirkholm but any of her books will do. And I agree entirely, Harry. Much more interesting than J. K.Rowling.


Margaret 03.26.11 at 2:33 pm

Sorry, Henry, not Harry.


Sebastian (2) 03.26.11 at 3:07 pm

When I was in my early teens, my mom and I always argued who’d get to read a new DWJ book first… The Power of Three was my/our favorite. And until just now I had no idea she wrote the book the Howls Moving Castle


Barry Freed 03.26.11 at 3:10 pm

As an adult reader who loves this kind of stuff but hasn’t read her, where should I start?


Gareth Rees 03.26.11 at 3:39 pm

“Diana Wynne Jones”, not “Dianna Wynne-Jones”.

I loved her work when I was a kid in the early 1980s, especially the Chrestomanci series (Charmed Life, Witch Week, The Magicians of Caprona), Dogsbody and Eight Days of Luke. One quality I particularly like is her habit of using sympathetic villains: her protagonists rarely face inexplicable evil, but instead people whose motivations can be understood. Often the plot leads to reconciliation and understanding rather than victory and defeat (e.g. in The Ogre Downstairs). She’s also good at treatment of family situations: whereas most children’s fantasies start with the removal of the child protagonists from their family, DWJ often combines the fantastic situations with the context of family relationships. But her endings are not always cosy: The Homeward Bounders I found quite emotionally wrenching.

As an adult I rediscovered her via The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, a hilarious exposé of the clichéd and derivative nature of most fantasy settings, which led me to Dark Lord of Derkholm, Howl’s Moving Castle and the others that I had missed after growing up.


Natilo Paennim 03.26.11 at 5:23 pm

Barry, all of the titles mentioned above have something to be said for them. My personal favorites are Deep Secrets, The Dark Lord of Derkholm, The Year of the Griffin and the Chrestomanci books. Deep Secrets is the one that has been most marketed to adults/older YA readers, so that might be the best place to start.

This is very sad news.


Randolph 03.26.11 at 11:00 pm

I like Diane Duane’s memorial post. The linked Peter Morwood post is also a good one.

Barry, it’s hard to say. I’d say Archer’s Goon or Tale of Time City–those are short, self-contained, and fun. Some of her books actually are what are usually called “adult” books (I am thinking of Fire and Hemlock, but that’s a difficult book, and requires a fair bit of understanding of British folk culture), and they all engage adult matters of family politics and power.


Henry 03.27.11 at 2:40 am

Gareth – thanks – fixed.


Randolph 03.27.11 at 5:07 pm

Also, memorial from Emma Bull over at tor.com.


Steve 03.27.11 at 5:13 pm

Barry, the Chrestomanci books are fantastic, but for a standalone book to serve as an introduction to her work, I’d probably recommend The Homeward Bounders.


Gareth Rees 03.27.11 at 5:53 pm


Phil 03.28.11 at 10:57 am

Lots of props for “the Chrestomanci books”, but can somebody list them and specify where to start?

I read Howl’s after seeing the film and was startled by how good it was – Philip K. Dick meets Joan Aiken (another hugely underrated writer).


Gareth Rees 03.28.11 at 1:25 pm

According to Wikipedia, DWJ’s own recommended reading order was Charmed Life (1977); The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988); Conrad’s Fate (2005); Witch Week (1982); The Magicians of Caprona (1980). But in fact each book is fairly self-contained and the order doesn’t really matter.


Roger Albin 03.28.11 at 4:17 pm

Dogsbody and The Spellcoats – both original and surprisingly powerful books.


Margaret 03.28.11 at 8:53 pm

As should be clear by now, just read one. If you or your kids are on to her wavelength, you’ll want to read them all.


Barry Freed 03.29.11 at 8:43 pm

Thank’s all. Margaret, that’s what I’m doing now. Thanks again.

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