coraa: (bookworm)
[personal profile] coraa
Ever since Diana Wynne Jones passed away, I've been doling out the new-to-me books a few at a time to make them last. This is one of my most recent "new" reads.

It's clear from the beginning that magical things are going on at Melstone House, because Andrew is first informed that his grandfather has died and left him the place by his deceased grandfather's ghost. But Andrew can't figure out exactly what's going on: why everyone keeps referring to his "field-of-care," what document he's supposed to be finding among his grandfather's voluminous papers, or why Aidan Cain has run away and sought him for help. But he'd better figure it out quickly, because something sinister is rapidly encroaching on the property...

This is what I think of as a very typical Diana Wynne Jones book: set in a world almost but not quite ours, with a large cast of highly eccentric characters, a scale that is small but with potentially far-reaching results, and a protagonist (or protagonists) who is always just one step behind the rapidly-unfolding (and rapidly-complicating) plot. That said, "typical Diana Wynne Jones" is in no way a criticism. This book contains many of the things that I like about her as an author, particularly the large, eccentric, mostly-likeable cast of characters and the way all the tangled plot threads tie up at the end in a big, messy climactic ending. DWJ does the "gloriously chaotic ending" better than pretty much anyone I can think of.

Some of the things that I liked about the book are hard to talk about outside the spoiler cut, like the way it plays with a certain set of tropes. Let me just say that it manages to deal with some common tropes in way that are a little uncommon without hanging a big "I am subverting this trope! Look at me subvert!" sign on it.

The book did some other things that I think of as classic Diana Wynne Jones, and again, in a good way. It is very funny, in some places funny enough to make me giggle out loud. The humor is character-based, which is my favorite kind. And that ties in with another thing I appreciated: serious emotional subjects are handled with a sensitivity and a deft touch that makes them feel honest without being sledgehammer-like. There is one scene where a character grieves, and it felt completely real to me, but it wasn't like wading through a quagmire of angst.

I wouldn't say this was one of my very favorite DWJ books. It's very light, and again, it's doing something she has done many times. But good DWJ is great by most other standards, and this is definitely good. I'd recommend it, especially as a book to read if you're having a bad day.



The trope I was talking about was "faeries in the modern day." I am very picky about faerie books, because there are a lot of them and a lot of them are part of the My Supernatural Boyfriend genre. This was of course not that at all, but it also pleased me by referencing not the idea of pre-Christian Celtic faeries but of renaissance (and particularly Shakespearean) faeries. The word "sidhe" is never mentioned that I can recall, and Puck is Puck, not a pwca. It was a little unusual, but without being super-obvious about I'm Doing Faeries Differently. (And yes, Shakespearean faeries aren't exactly shocking and novel, and have been done a hojillion times, but recently I've seen mostly attempts to tie them back to earlier faerie lore.)

I also liked that the faeries weren't good or bad per se (Oberon was pretty clearly terrible, but Groil and Rolf were not), but they weren't morally grey in a "you can tell they're amoral because they steal your boyfriend" kind of way. Also, while one of the faeries comes on to Andrew, and others have clearly slept with humans before, there's not even a whisper of a real potential of a faerie romance. I guess what I'm saying is that I liked that this was a book with faeries in that was not A Faerie Book.



Enchanted Glass, by Diana Wynne Jones

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April 2013

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