Sunday, June 05, 2011

Book Review: Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones

Book: Enchanted Glass
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Published: 2010
Source: Local Library

Aiden Cain is in a pickle. Orphaned by the sudden death of his gran, he's also being stalked by strange creatures, which has gotten him kicked out of at least one foster home. His gran always told him he could go to Jocelyn Brandon, of Melstone House, who would know what to do about him. But when Aidan arrives at Melstone, he discovers that Mr. Brandon is dead and the new owner, Mr. Brandon's grandson, doesn't have any more idea what to do than Aidan does.

Andrew Hope is likewise in a pickle. He's inherited his grandfather's field-of-care, the responsibility for the magical well-being of a huge area of land. It's been far too long since his childhood lessons with his grandfather, which he's starting to realize were more than just the imaginative play that he told himself they were. He's also starting to realize that Aidan is a lot more than just an orphaned relative.

As magical enemies gather on the horizon and high summer looms, Andrew and Aidan are going to need to keep their heads cool and their wits about them if they hope to come through this one alive.

Time: 1:57:18
Why I Wanted to Read It: Please. Did you see who wrote it?

One of my favorite parts of this, and of most of Jones' work, is how high magic and legendary creatures exist alongside prosaic English country life. Soccer games are witnessed by sanguine weredogs, friendly giants eat unwanted vegetables, and gigantic cauliflowers grown by magic are made into cauliflower cheese. (I had to look this up. Yecccch.) In fact, in many ways this is a book that could never have been written by an American, because the base of it is a particularly English-countryside mindset of ownership and responsibility for the land and the people in it.

There was some discussion about Andrew being at least as strong a main character as Aidan, if not stronger. Conventional wisdom holds that kids only want to read about other kids, but then, Jones never seems to pay much attention to "conventional wisdom" when it comes to her books. (Witness the success of Howl's Moving Castle, which has one child character, and that a secondary one.) It didn't feel at all jarring to me, and I think we don't give kids enough credit for being interested in a good character no matter their age.

Basically, this book is classic Diana Wynne Jones. Mayhem, narration filled with biting wit, outrageously flawed adults and children, magic, more mayhem, coolly threatening villains, and main characters who despite being woefully unprepared for the task at hand, roll up their sleeves and plunge in. If you're already a fan, this won't disappoint. If you're not, this will make you one.

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