The Islands of Chaldea

I think this is a great book for fans of Diana Wynne Jones. New comers should start off with The Chrestomanci series, the always beloved Howl’s Moving Castle, Fire and Hemlock, Dogsbody,The Merlin Conspiracy,The Homeward Bounders or Archer’s Goon.

The marvel of this book is that you never notice two people writing it, because it’s so beautifully well written. The protagonist’s downright voice and nuanced, spunky character is what I have to come to expect as Diana’s own special strength in characterization.

But the story has too much resemblance to the funny, hitching along journey the characters undertake. They visit three islands because apparently that was the only way the author could collect a representative from each island to complete the Quest, but this is done really in order to necessitate a few pages of description and occasion some minor events, lacking in real consequences, none of which build up to the denouement of the book. There doesn’t seem to be much point to their travel, which is what bugs me.

The story is not very cohesive but other elements like the writing, atmosphere, characterization, psychological truths, and the blend of fantasy and ordinary life (no one is a larger than life hero here)- all markers of DWJ’s writing – exist rock steady and give you a reason to read.

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