Let’s Celebrate Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones’ publishers have organized an ongoing celebration of her novels. Drop by the DWJ 2012 Tumblr site or the Greenwillow blog to check out quotes, stories and tributes. I’ve wanted to write about Diana Wynne Jones for a while now but I kept hesitating because unlike some of my blogging buddies, it shames me to admit that I’ve only read a couple of her books. That doesn’t mean that I loved them any less though – Howl’s Moving Castle is included in my list of absolute favorites. It convinced me to read the companion novels and to watch the Hayao Miyazaki film adaptation because I wanted more of Howl. I’m not an expert when it comes to Diana Wynne Jones’ books but I am a fan. She has an extensive back list and I plan to go through all of her books – next up is probably Deep Secret or The Dark Lord of Derkholm. I’m really curious about Fire and Hemlock as well, I hear it’s been reissued so I hope I find a copy soon. I remember writing a letter when I found out through Sounis that DWJ was sick and she’d appreciate getting some fan mail. I didn’t expect a reply but I got a nice one from her agent’s assistant:

I’m amazed at how Diana Wynne Jones has inspired so many readers and authors. She seems just as magical as her books. I love going through the beautifully written tributes that have been posted about her, some of them even made me tear up a bit. I think it’s wonderful when one of my favorite authors is a fan of another favorite author. A few posts about DWJ written by authors I admire: Robin McKinley, Megan Whalen Turner, Sarah Rees Brennan, Garth Nix.

Image from Neil Gaiman’s tweet from way back.

Diana Wynne Jones is a great YA fantasy author – her books were published way before the YA craze started. She seems like a lovely person based on everything that I’ve read about her. I keep wishing I found out about her books when I was younger, I’m pretty sure I’d be a bigger fan if that was the case. It saddens me that there isn’t much that I can contribute to this celebration except to spread the word about it and encourage more people to read her books. I just wanted to talk about her because I feel that Diana Wynne Jones has touched my life and I have a feeling she’ll do so over and over again whenever I pick up one of her novels or even when I read novels written by authors who found inspiration in her writing.

Quote from Howl's Moving Castle

Image from Tumblr

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

Castle in the Air is a companion to my favorite Diana Wynne Jones novel, Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s not really a sequel but the events in this one occur after Howl’s Moving Castle. I’ve had my copy for over a year now, this was given by Evert as a birthday present in 2010.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Abdullah was a young and not very prosperous carpet dealer. His father, who had been disappointed in him, had left him only enough money to open a modest booth in the Bazaar. When he was not selling carpets, Abdullah spent his time daydreaming. In his dreams he was not the son of his father, but the long-lost son of a prince. There was also a princess who had been betrothed to him at birth. He was content with his life and his daydreams until, one day, a stranger sold him a magic carpet.

Diana Wynne Jones’ novels are always a lot of fun, even if they’re written for younger audiences that what I’m used to reading. I think most of her books fall under MG or younger YA fantasy. I wish I knew about her when I was younger because she’s been writing about magic and wizards long before Harry Potter became popular. I probably would’ve loved her books to bits if I read them when I was a child. Castle in the Air is an Aladdin-esque story set in the same world as Howl’s Moving Castle and some of my favorite characters even make an appearance. I mentioned Aladdin because Abdullah lives near a desert, buys a magic carpet and gets to meet a genie. There are glimpses of Howl, Sophie and even Calcifer from Howl’s Moving Castle in this installment but I still think Castle in the Air stands well on its own. Abdullah is a carpet merchant who loves to daydream. He didn’t inherit his father’s wealth because of a prophecy at his birth. It doesn’t matter because he’s content with his small booth in the bazaar in Zanzib, where he can daydream whenever business is slow. His main source of irritation comes from his father’s first wife’s relatives who keep on trying to tell him what to do with his life. Abdullah gets thrust into one adventure after another when a merchant sells him a magic carpet.

While Howl’s Moving Castle is still my favorite DWJ novel, I still enjoyed reading about the quirky characters in this one. I liked that it had a different setting from Howl and that Abdullah came from a different culture. His way of using flowery language when speaking is unique and he even uses some adjectives that I wasn’t familiar with! Castle in the Air is easy to fall into, the plot moves along at a nice pace and there are a lot of silly and funny moments in the story. I think that assessment is applicable to all of the other DWJ novels that I’ve read. They’re all light and fun – filled with characters who end up in crazy situations that they eventually manage to get out of. If you’re a fan of MG and YA fantasy and you’ve never read any book by DWJ then I recommend that you give them a try soon. I know that she has a lot of fans out there, even her fellow authors admire her work (I know Megan Whalen Turner is a DWJ fan). If you’re familiar with DWJ’s books, I’d like to know what’s your favorite.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Spoilers and Nuts
Teen Book Review Blog

Retro Friday: Howl’s Moving Castle

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

I haven’t done a Retro Friday post in a while because I’ve been busy putting up We Love YA features every Friday. I don’t have a feature ready for today so I decided to write a review from one of my favoritesHowl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I know I’ve mentioned this book several times here on the blog but I realized that I don’t have a review of it up. I’ve successfully recommended this book to several friends and they’ve all enjoyed reading it.

Here’s the summary from Diana Wynne Jones’ website:

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl — and herself — than first meets the eye.

I don’t know why but I’ve always had a soft spot for books with magic in it. So when I saw the premise of this one, I knew I had to give it a try and I’m so glad I did. I loved reading about Sophie and how she slowly came to her own. At first, you’d think that Sophie is a quiet type of girl, destined to a life of boredom making hats. Without meaning to, she sets in motion events that are full of humor and enchantment. Throw in an eccentric fire demon and a self-absorbed, flamboyant wizard and you’re in for a good time. Howl is such a character! You can’t help but like him even though it seems like all he thinks about is how he looks and how famous he is. Here’s a passage that I really liked, Calcifer is Howl’s resident fire demon:

“Go to bed, you fool,” Calcifer said sleepily. “You’re drunk.”
“Who, me?” said Howl. “I assure you, my friends, I am cone sold sober.” He got up and stalked upstairs, feeling for the wall as if he thought it might escape him unless he kept in touch with it. His bedroom door did escape him. “What a lie that was!” Howl remarked as he walked into the wall. “My shining dishonesty will be the salvation of me.” He walked into the wall several times more, in several different places, before he discovered his bedroom door and crashed his way through it. Sophie could hear him falling about, saying that his bed was dodging.

This was the first ever DWJ book that I ever read. Later on, I learned that it was DWJ who gave MWT (Megan Whalen Turner) a leg up in the publishing world so we have her to thank for the wonderful Queen’s Thief series. Maybe that’s why both Howl and Gen are so awesome? As proven by the fact that they were the last two standing in the recently concluded YA Fantasy Showdown. I already have several other DWJ books in my TBR and I know I’ll enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed Howl’s story. I’ve seen the Hayao Miyazaki film version and although it’s very different from the book, I also liked it.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Tempting Persephone
Squeaky Books
Mother Daughter Book Club
Random Musings of a Bibliphile