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I belong to Chrestomanci Castle

A happy day playing quite a lot of Dragon Age yesterday (I'm getting better at setting tactics), but I got to my Twitter feed late last night to see that Diana Wynne Jones had died. This wasn't entirely a shock, I had a horrible suspicion it was her when Neil Gaiman tweeted about a friend on their way out, but it was still incredibly sad, and I'm still rather weepy. She's probably in my top 3 favourite fantasy authors ever.

I'm not sure if I should be glad or sorry that I never read any of her novels when I was actually a kid - if they would have been a richer or poorer experience than reading them as an adult. On the whole, I don't think it matters. I can't at this stage even remember who introduced me to her novels and which one I read first, but it was sometime in my first few years of university. (Vague suspicion rests on virtualkathy, and possibly Fire and Hemlock, or The Power of Three. I know the Evil Landlord hit me with Archer's Goon at some stage, but I think it was later). She's always been the author whose next book I will automatically buy, without question, in hardback if necessary, and which I will automatically enjoy. She never had off days. Each novel was a perfect, quirky, original, meaningful thing.

DWJ is the ultimate literary exemplar of the thing that Buffy got right, what JK Rowling dreams of being, vainly, in her most aspirational moments - fantasy that uses magic and symbol intelligently and with considerable emotional reality to talk about human experiences, issues, angsts. The Ogre Downstairs is the perfect Difficult Step-parent novel, through the lens of an enchanted chemistry set. Archer's Goon is the ultimate sibling rivalry cautionary tale. Black Maria is about emotional manipulation and gender stereotyping. They're brilliantly written, sharp and humorous and warm, and jam-packed with ideas - she tucks away in odd narrative corners whole edifices of fancy around which a lesser writer could construct an entire novel.

It's difficult to say which are my favourite DWJ books, because as I think of them, each of them becomes the obvious candidate. I have a very soft spot for Chrestomanci, the dashing, witheringly sarcastic enchanter in the midst of alternate realities, and the rabble of gifted and chaotic children who surround him (and as one of which he started himself). The Chrestomanci regulation of magic is a more intelligent and Victorian precursor to Rowling's Ministry of Magic, and has a far more real sense of the costs of power, control and responsibility. But I am also enamoured of the chatty, down-to-earth witchery of Sophie and her sisters in the Howl's Moving Castle series, as well as Howl himself, and of the beautiful, devastating critique of bad fantasy and bad teaching in The Dark Lord of Derkholm and its sequel. And, of course, the magic-infested fantasy convention in Deep Secret makes me incredibly happy, as does the alternate-worldery of The Merlin Conspiracy. Also, salamanders. And Minnie the elephant.

I give up. I love them all. I re-read them often, and in fact over the last week or so I've just ambled contentedly through the Howl series yet again. The long row of DWJ books in my shelves is a storehouse of treasures, an old friend, a magic box which I open to connect me with someone who I wish I could have met: a warm, vibrant, vital, slightly mad mind with an earthy sense of reality and a sharp and compassionate eye. I can't bear to think that my DWJ collection is now complete, that there will never be another new book from her. The rising young stars of the fantasy genre will have to scramble to match her. But they'll never be her. She was an original.
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Archer, Shine, Dillian, Venturus, Hathaway, Erskine, Torquil
Aaah, I remember reading her as a child. Archer's Goon was my favourite. Sorry to hear of her passing.
Re: Archer, Shine, Dillian, Venturus, Hathaway, Erskine, Torquil
Those names are amazing, aren't they? Like a litany. It's a wonderfully quirky book, one of my favourites as well.
I think it may have been Fire and Hemlock now that you mention it and oddly enough at the time I had *no idea* she'd written anything else. I originally stumbled across it as a young teen.
And I couldn't agree more, it's deeply sad to think there won't be new stories being added to my shelves. But I am looking forward to introducing her to my kids.
virtualkathy seems to think it was her :) but I have a distinct memory of it being me. Perhaps we got in simultaneously. It was Witch Week I remember recommending to you. It was the DWJ my local library stocked and which I had read multiple times. It will always have a special place in my heart.
That's a bit odd, because my memory is of reading Witch Week rather late in the series - after I'd already read other Chrestomanci ones. Possibly you recommended it and I didn't do anything about it? Alternatively, my memory is as soft and cheesy as ever.
I know you were quite definitely Fire and Hemlock, I associate it with you very strongly, but I may be entirely wrong about it being the first DWJ I ever read. I've just checked with the Evil Landlord and he says I definitely introduced him to DWJ and gave him his copy of Archer's Goon, so clearly my memory isn't. Age. As you say. Alas. *fossilises*

Oh, gods, I've just remembered. The first one I ever read was Castle in the Air, because we dramatised the hell out of it for that Tolkien Soc evening, remember? Which of you was responsible for that?
as do all right-thinking people ;>. There's also a new paperback series which is available quite cheaply on places like Loot.
I've never read any DWJ :(. I admit to being more of a SF fan from about 14 onwards and haven't really read any fantasy since Eddings and the Dragonlance stuff and the Drizzt stuff (please don't shoot me). I am liking the Tepper, though, perhaps I should give fantasy more of a chance :P.

Please push some DWJ at me next time I'm at your place fondling your Hobbit.