… Diana Wynne Jones.
Her fantasy novels are light and funny, with organic plots and plenty of surprises. Best of all, her storyworlds are interesting and her characters are lovable. The books of hers that I’ve learned the most from are:
Charmed Life. I felt so bad for poor Cat Chance, who goes with his sister to live in a sorcerer’s castle and learn magic. Cat is constantly left to get himself out of trouble that his sister has put him in, and his good nature makes him completely endearing. I loved spending time in the castle and learning about the magic in Cat’s world–magic which is somehow unassuming and engrossing at the same time.
Conrad’s Fate. Conrad’s training as a new servant in a mansion is fascinating, partly because of the troubled family he serves, and partly because of the magical mishaps that keep occurring. Not only does Jones do a great job of making Conrad likeable, she also takes advantage of a limited POV to keep readers interested in Conrad’s mysterious and charming pal, Christopher, the sorcerer from Charmed Life.
Castle in the Air. Again, the main character of this book is somewhat put-upon and yet still kind and clever. He thinks he has it made when he acquires a magic carpet that flies him to a lovely princess, but he’s only gotten himself into a world of trouble. He has a very funny way of offering profuse compliments to everyone he meets, being a carpet salesman by trade, and this trait actually helps him out in some tight spots. Jones also finds a way to weave in characters from another of her books (Howl’s Moving Castle), which makes for some great surprises at the end of this story.
What I find myself trying to capture in my own writing is Jones’s way of letting her reader enjoy the magical settings she has created. I also admire the way she instills a sense of wonder through humor, plot twists, and magic. I find myself re-visiting her books again and again, something I hope my own future readers will do with my books!
Parker Peevyhouse can’t get enough of the Miyasaki film based on Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle.