The magic that is Diana Wynne Jones

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Three years ago my best friend decided it was time to surprise me with a book called Howl’s Moving Castle. As a huge Miyazaki fan I loved his film – no, not loved, I adored Howl and Calcifer and Sophie and wished with all my heart that I could live in their world and be a sorceress as well. The film was (obviously) based on a novel but I never gave it much thought, not until I received an actual copy of it for my birthday. I still thank my best friend for buying me that book every once in a while.

I was so nervous when I started reading the book because I was afraid I wouldn’t like it since the film was so good. I was wrong. I ADORED the novel. It was quite different than the film but in a good way. It seemed to me as though Miyazaki and Jones took the core story of the novel but then made it their own. Howl was a superb main character, Sophie became my role model and Calcifer, well, I sort of wished he was my fire demon.

I then read the other two books in the series though the first one remains my favourite. Each novel had a list of all the author’s books written in them and I was shocked to see how many there were! I was puzzled by the fact that this clearly talented writer wasn’t mentioned more often. Where was she all my life? Even today not many people know about Diana Wynne Jones and I’m really frustrated about it because she is a genius when it comes to fantasy writing. An actual genius.

Her Crestomanci series is hilarious and filled with unexpected plot twists. The worlds she creates are entwined with magic in a way that makes you long for them. I almost cried because I wasn’t a part of them. Jones has a way with words that is unlike any other writer I’ve come across. Neil Gaiman speaks highly of her and he also started reading her books when he was a teenager. Her books are mainly written for children but they’re not childish at all. In fact they are rather complex and the language itself is far from being simple and straight-forward.

I just spend an hour browsing through the books I haven’t yet read to see which I’ll buy first. The old covers aren’t as ornate while the newest editions are beautiful but since we do tend to judge a book by its cover I keep wondering whether this is one of the reasons her books aren’t so widely known. But I think the biggest reason is that her writing isn’t mainstream and it’s mostly intented for children and I can’t think of many adults who would willingly admit they enjoy reading children’s literature. Well I do and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

There is a point to my post and I think you might have a clue as to what it is already. I’m not trying to sell you anthing, not at all, though I would be so happy if you could take the time to read one of her books (I suggest Howl’s Moving Castle because it’s a good way to be introduced to DWJ’s worlds). What I won’t to point out is the fact that a lot of good authors who write quality literature are hovering somewhere in the background while the popular writers steal all the show. I’m not saying that all popular novelists are bad, but just because a book is a bestseller that doesn’t mean it’s actually any good.

I am quite sad to find so little written on Diana Wynne Jones and I’ll definitely write reviews of her books because they are my favourite and they do deserve to get in the spotlight. Fire and Hemlock for example is my favourite book of the year and I might even like it better than Howl! Anyhow I’ll stop praising miss Jones now but if you are a fan of fantasy literature please give her books a try. I promise you will not be disappointed.

In case I haven’t been persuasive enough and my word doesn’t mean that much, here is a wonderful post about DWJ that Neil Gaiman wrote after the author passed away. It’s beautifully written but then again everything Neil Gaiman writes is beautiful.

Even if only one person decides to read DWJ novel after reading this post, I would count that as a success (in case you do read it please message me afterwards, I’d love to hear you thoughts on the book!). To great authors who seemingly create magic out of thin air: thank you.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

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Another series written by the author of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy? Yes, please! I’ve been a huge fan of Laini Taylor since I read Karou and Akiva’s story which blew my mind away with its surprising plot twists, poetic writing style, fairy tale elements and well-written characters. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t like this book as much as I adored the previous trilogy, but I was wrong. Boy was I wrong!

Strange the Dreamer is a story about a solitary librarian who dreams of a mythological city named Weep. Lazlo travels through the desert and when he arrives to his dream town, he is faced with the city’s ominous problem. At the same time we meet Sarai, daughter of the goddess of despair and her four companions, also children of gods. The city reveals its terrible history of oppression and terror while Sarai and Lazlo meet in his dreams and fall in love. But they must overcome grave obstacles and two hundred years of fear if they wish to be truly together. But the story is much more complicated than they could ever have imagined and Lazlo’s origin is revealed just moments before the book ends with a terrifying and unexpected turn of events.

This book offers so much; a gentle romance, complex characters, intriguing mysteries, magical creatures and surprising plot twists that don’t disappoint. The writing style is beautiful, ornamented, very poetical and magical, close to epic story telling which is one of the reasons why I love this author so much. The story is so deep and complex, you think you have a grasp on it but then something else gets revealed and you are left barefoot once more. It’s truly a masterpiece of fantasy (epic) writing and I recommend it to fans of fantasy YA literature.

The main character Lazlo Strange is a lover of books which is why he is so relatable. He craves adventure yet he is so kind and good natured, everyone likes him (well almost everyone, he has a so-called enemy to ensure the tension in the book). The goddess Sarai is very human despite her magical abilities, she has fears and longings like all of us. Their relationship is so fragile and strong at the same time. The romance slowly grows and they both learn from each other.

The other characters are also very complex and interesting, their stories filled with pain and sorrow but also love, so much love. The background of the story, the city of Weep, is just breathtaking, the writing instantly transports you to its ruined streets. I highly recommend this book to readers because it’s just that good. I don’t want to say too much about the story, just go and read it, you won’t regret it. Also give Daughter of Smoke and Bone a try, it’s really good, one of the best YA trilogies I’ve come across. Just let yourselves be transported to the magical lands created by Laini Taylor; you will never want to leave.

And that’s how you go on. You lay laughter over the dark parts. The more dark parts, the more you have to laugh. With defiance, with abandon, with hysteria, any way you can.

Laini Taylor, Strange the Dreamer