The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones

Cover of Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones
Cover of Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones

Title: The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones
Scored a: A-
Status: Finished!


The Homeward Bounders! I’ve been wanting to reread this for ages, but was unable to because it was region locked for sale. So during a trip to the USA my billing address magically changed to match my current IP and I got a lot of books I’ve been wanting for a while.

The plot of the book is Jamie sees something he shouldn’t – what appears to be two hooded figures standing over a map of the world in a strange room. As punishment, he is sent into other worlds with the promise that one day he may be allowed ‘back into play’ if he finds his way home. Until then no one can interfere with his journey, but there’s nowhere for him that he can belong. For every time one of the mysterious Them make a move, Jamie is forced into a new world.

Along the way he picks up two very important allies.

I really like this book and my only disappointment is that Adam (he shows up later) is never set on fire.

If I had to compare it to something, I’d say DnD and Sliders.

On the cover I chose, incidentally, the character most prominent is not Jamie. It’s a girl (one of the allies I mentioned) named Helen who has a very special gift and is coded as Pakistani, if that sweetens the pot for any potential readers.

What I really liked is how they managed to fit a preteen and an old man’s world-weary perspective into one character with Jamie. The story ends with the trademark DWJ ‘DONE NOW’ so don’t get your hopes up for anything lingering.

If  you’re into fanfic, this book crosses over with anything. Anything.

Its genre is that mix of sci-fantasy that DWJ does sometimes that I’m a big fan of.

A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones

Title: A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
Scored a: A
Status: Finished



A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones (this is the cover I grew up with)

The other time travel book I described! Through a series of mishaps, a little girl (Vivian) is kidnapped from a train station during WW2 when she’s on her way to the country and brought to a city that exists outside of time itself.

And that city is collapsing in on itself.

She teams up with a pair of boys native to the city (also her kidnappers) to save it.

There’s a lot of ‘oh wait, so THAT’S what that scene meant’ during this book, which is preceded by a lot of guessing about which bit meant which, as things get a little… timey wimey.

Why did I like this book so much? Lots of reasons, but the little details are probably what did it. The dessert that they all have a mad passion for,  42nd century butter-pie which sounds absolutely delicious when described in the book, and the time ghosts. The time ghosts are throughout the city. They’re important things that happened, emotional things that happened, repeated things that happened. And the whole concept was really appealing to me.

Also? There’s an android manservant to the family with atrocious taste and the clothes he helps pick out for Vivian were excellent.

The city itself is a brilliant creation. People from stabilized time periods with time travel (it seems to get discovered and outlawed off and on) come to study in the city, they have tourists, you can apply for citizenship, it’s just a really neat idea. A time country. I love this book.

Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones

Title: Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones
Scored a: A+
Status: Finished


Cover of Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones
Cover of Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones (It actually took me a year to realize it had a face)

Hexwood was my favourite book for years and years. It didn’t fall out of favour with me so much as The Neverending Story fell into favour, but it’s still dear to me.

Hexwood is a book with a lot going on in it. And when you think you know the plot, it turns out you don’t. And even when I was rereading it with that fact in mind, it still totally side-swiped me, because my memory is terrible and I got caught up in believing the narration.

One of the plots is one day a young girl is very sick and notices that people are going into the Hexwood Farm and not coming out again, and she decides to investigate. In the process she gets caught up in an Arthurian legend. Then there’s all the other plots.

Diana Wynne Jones books have one major flaw, and that’s usually their endings. But in this case the ending is pretty solid and all the threads running around the story tie up together pretty tidily.

A problem with stories with a lot of moving pieces is they can leave you frustrated from the feeling things are being kept from you, but in the case of Hexwood you don’t get that feeling at all, as things aren’t kept from you, but things are added instead as things go on. You think you’ve got a stick figure and then it turns out to be an elaborate oil painting.  Like pieces clicking into place.

If you forget things like I do, this book has an excellent reread value.

Just a warning though, later on in the book is some pretty intense child abuse. Like Dogsbody‘s animal abuse it makes sense in context, but it’s fairly shocking. When I got to that part I had to stop and look at the ceiling for a while. I’d managed to totally forget that part.

I’m glad a lot of Diana Wynne Jones’ oeuvre has been made available digitally, as it allows me to revisit my old favourites since my paper books seem to continually shift around the house and into hiding.

Year of the Griffin

Title: Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones
Scored a: B
Status: Finished

Cover of Year of the Griffin
Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones

The sequel to Dark Lord of Derkholm was a typical Diana Wynne Jones sequel, in that it was just elaborating the world the first one took place in and wasn’t a continuation of the struggle in the first. Definitely not a complaint, that’s part of what I love about her writing.

Now, you’ll notice this has a lower score than the first one but that’s because some of the brutality in the book didn’t seem to mesh with the writing in other sections, so it’s a technical score that lowered it.

This is also, apparently, a book where Everyone Gets Paired Off, Even The Cameos. But since none of the pairings are repellant, I’m not docking points for that.

So! The plot is that Elda, Derk’s youngest daughter and griffin (although not the youngest anymore. Still a griffin) has gone off to wizarding college. She meets up with five other students and becomes fast friends, but each one (except her) has people back home who’d really rather they not be there. By lethal force, if necessary.

On top of that, most of the teachers are incompetent and amoral.

The students are great. I loved them. The dwarf Ruskin and Claudia the marshlady were my faves that weren’t Elda. The teachers were a recurring ‘toxic authority figure’ that shows up in Diana Wynne Jones’ books a lot, but just because I’m used to that doesn’t make them less frustrating to read, because oh boy do I feel for the people they’re being inflicted on.

Like Dark Lord of Derkholm, Year of the Griffin had a more solid, if abrupt, ending than a lot of her books do. So. Huzzah.

And the premise, which was griffin goes to wizarding school, delivered. Oh goodness, did it deliver. The similar premise, ‘wizard raises griffins as own children’ from the first is what grabbed me the first time. I’m running out of Diana Wynne Jones books I haven’t read yet, but the stuff remaining has been real gems.

Oh god I miss Diana Wynne Jones she was such an amazing author.

If I could make a book wish, I’d like for her to have written another book about the adventures the other half of Derk’s family had that got mentioned as a ‘that’s where they are’ when Elda’s relatives would show up. Because it sounded neat. And I wanted to hear more of the continent of griffins. And more about Elda’s new little winged siblings.  But I do not get book wishes.

Anyway! The two griffin books are just aces. I totally recommend them.

The Dark Lord Of Derkholm

Title: The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
Scored a: A+
Status: Finished


The cover of Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones


When people asked me what I was reading, I said it was a book about a pair of wizards and their human and griffin children. This seemed like a good blurb! And I was right, people were immediately interested after that.

Sometimes I’d go further, and explain that it was about a magical world that had been enslaved by a man from a world like ours, to perform as a sort of magic theme park for tourists to have ‘magical quests’ and that it was actually pretty dystopic, and this was how the wizards and their children saved everyone.

I really really liked this. I needed this book after something terrible happened. I had actually been reading James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small which, given its plethora of dead animals, was the exact wrong book for me at that moment.

Something I really enjoy in stories is unconventional families, and races that are as smart or smarter than us, but look nothing humanoid, and wizards raising griffins hit that exactly. There is also, if this sweetens the pot, dragons.

Diana Wynne Jones is my favourite author for a lot of reasons, and one of them is that she can write a story with a lot of threads that all tie up tidily as the ending approaches. The ending itself can be hit or miss, but the moment where it all comes together is one of my favourite feelings when reading.

I warn you, if you read this, that there is an upsetting scene that could be read two ways, bad and horrifying, that happens to Shona, the older human daughter during the soldier escorting.  I had to put down the book for a few moments after that and I had been expecting it.

I had already purchased and begun the sequel, Year of the Griffin, before getting started writing this review. It’s about one of the griffins going to a wizard school. Yessss.

Earwig and the Witch and The Vile Visitors

Earwig and the Witch by Diana Wynne Jones and illustrated by Marion Lindsay

On a rainy day (streets flooding and trapping me at someone’s house rainy) I read three Diana Wynne Jones stories, Earwig and the Witch and The Vile Visitors all illustrated by Marion Lindsay.

First off, Marion Lindsay’s art is adorable and charming, so that’s what I chose to post instead of quotes.

Earwig and the Witch was a major disappointment, and I don’t know how much of that is because it’s a posthumous book. It feels like two thirds of the book is missing, and that it was setting up for a series. Little is explained, characters are introduced significantly, only to never appear again, and the conflict vanishes suddenly. I was disappointed, because the start was very clever.

Almost forgot: The plot is Earwig lives in an orphanage and enjoys it very much. One day a witch takes her out to make her the witch’s slave. Hijinks start to ensue, then don’t.

The second book, Vile Visitors is a combination of two stories (see? I didn’t forget one when I said I read three above) which are Who Got Rid of Angus Flint? and Chair Person which have an unexpectedly large furniture presence. As the title suggests, it’s about vile visitors. The first is Angus Flint, a friend of the children’s father who shows up and decides to stay, making life hell. The second is about a horrible old sitting chair that a family decides to take out to put on a bonfire that… turns into a human and things go very wrong from there.

Vile Visitors was lots of fun, plus Marion Lindsay’s artwork really brought the characters and situations to life. Skip Earwig and the Witch.

Chair Person from the short story Chair Person by Diana Wynne Jones and illustrated by Marion Lindsay