Diana Wynne Jones biography and books reviewed

Diana Wynne Jones was born in London on August 16, 1934). She is a British writer whose better-known works include the Chrestomanci series and the novels Howl's Moving Castle and Dark Lord of Derkholm.

Jones' books range from a broad, almost slapstick delight in the construction of absurd-yet-logical situations, to sharp social observation, to witty parody of literary forms. Foremost amongst the latter are her Tough Guide to Fantasyland, and its fictional companion-pieces Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998) and Year of the Griffin (2000), which provide a merciless critique of formulaic sword-and-sorcery epics.

Jones' works are also compared to those of Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman. She is friends with Gaiman, and they are both fans of each others' work; she dedicated her novel Hexwood to him after something he said in a conversation that inspired a key part of the plot. Gaiman had already dedicated his 1991 four-part comic book mini-series The Books of Magic to "four witches", of whom Jones was one.

Charmed Life, the first book in the Chrestomanci series, won the 1977 Guardian Award for Children's Books. Jones was runner-up for the Children's Book Award in 1981, and was twice runner-up for the Carnegie Medal. In 1999, she won two major fantasy awards: the children's section of the Mythopoeic Awards in the USA, and the Karl Edward Wagner Award in the UK, which is awarded by the British Fantasy Society to individuals or organisations who have made a significant impact on fantasy.

Her book Howl's Moving Castle was adapted as a Japanese animated movie in 2004, by filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. A version dubbed into English was released in the United Kingdom and USA in 2005, with the voice of Howl performed by Christian Bale. Archer's Goon was adapted for television in 1992.

In July 2006 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Bristol and she also received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2007.

Diana Wynne Jones reviews

Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones

Though the plot is a little slow and not always clear, the sweet, believable romance, colourful characters, continual social comedy and even a bit of gentle poking fun at fantasy writers and fans, serve as the bow around a very mysterious box of surprises.

Read our review

The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones

There is just so much here to like, with even the book’s most pedestrian moments taking place in a very different world, full of quirky and colourful characters, that for the most part, the unfinished plot threads and characterisations only really tend to matter if, (like Rupert Venables from Deep Secret, and indeed myself, as well), you’re inclined to analyse everything a bit too much.

Read our review

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones

A powerful being fights for his life within the body of a humble, earthbound puppy. Sirius, immortal Lord of the Dog Star and infamous for his quick temper, cannot believe it when he is falsely accused of murder and banished to Earth. There he is reborn into the body of a puppy and learns that he has the life-span of that creature to recover the missing murder weapon. If he fails, he will die. He is adopted by Kathleen, who has no idea that her beloved Leo is anything more than an abandonded stray. She is a loving owner, but an unwanted guest in a family who mostly resent her presence. Sirius soon learns that he has enemies amongst the humans as well as amongst the unearthly beings who sentenced him. How on earth can he clear his name without his special powers?

"Dogsbody, though showing some of the lack of resolution of a book written comparatively early in Wynne Jones career, is nevertheless an amazing story. Few books I've encountered have managed to blend the heavenly and earthly quite so spectacularly."

Read our review

A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones

When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City – a place that exists outside time and space. It is a strange and remarkable place, where technology rules – yet important events of both past and future are marked by the appearance of mysterious Time Ghosts. Here, a Time Patrol works to preserve historical events – but unknown rogue time-travellers are plotting to take control and are stealing the wards that protect the city. If they succeed, Time City and History as we know it will both be destroyed. Jonathan and Sam are convinced that Vivian can help to save their home – for, astonishingly, she appears as a Time Ghost herself in a forgotten part of the city. But how can she possibly know what to do, when the important event hasn’t even happened yet?!

"Whether you’re a vintage Wynne Jones fan or are discovering her books for the first time as I was, whether you’re an eight year old more interested in reading than socializing, or indeed a thirty four year old still more interested in reading than socializing, Time City is absolutely worth a visit."

Read our review

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Howl’s Moving Castle is an endearing, amusing fantasy novel ideal for children that can be enjoyed by readers of any age. Highly recommended.

Read our review

A Sudden Wild Magic by Diana Wynne Jones

Despite the fact that the plot gets a little too quickly shoved around by random magic at times, and despite the slightly overly large, if not actually plot irrelevant characters, I'd still absolutely recommend A Sudden Wild Magic, a book which unquestionably succeeds in being simply what Wynne Jones wanted it to be: a good story, and yet, in simply being a good story, for all its whimsical plot turns and sudden bursts of magic, actually has a few far more important things to say as well.

Read our review

Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones

Every saga has a beginning. Every journey has a first step... And so it is with the magical Worlds of Chrestomanci which English fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones began so many years ago with her own episode one - Charmed Life. Winner of the Guardian Award for Children's Books, Charmed Life has been a favourite escape to parallel fantastical worlds since 1977, and remains refreshingly captivating and reassuringly addictive in its latest paperback edition with a wonderful new jacket illustration. The adventure begins in a strange and not-quite contemporary England that is still peppered with paddle steamers, horse-drawn carriages and girls wearing petticoats. Orphans Eric Chant (nicknamed Cat) and his sister Gwendolen, a gifted witch, are whisked away to live in a castle with Chrestromanci, a much-revered man of magic, wealth and mysterious ways. Their new life is full of the surreal and unexpected, and there are several crazy new rules to master--not least by Gwendolen who must learn to channel her astonishing powers for good instead of mischief as she forever seems determined to do! Chrestomanci is a truly original creation, and Charmed Life introduces this dandy nine-lived enchanter - the king of the regal dressing gown - and his associated colourful characters in a story of pace and substance, twists and turns, treachery and bravado. There's also humour amid the author's very immediate writing, and enough puzzles and mystery to keep an inquisitive mind captivated until the very end.

Read our review

The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones

Tonino is the only person in the famous Montana household who wasn't born with an instinct for creating spells, but he has other gifts. His ability to communicate with cats just might help defend the city of Caprona against a mysterious enchanter -- but only if Tonino can learn to cooperate with a girl from the hated Petrocchi family of spell-makers.

In books by fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones, nothing is ever as it seems. And so it is with one of her finest creations, The Worlds of Chrestomanci. Here, there are hundreds of other, parallel worlds - each one formed when the result of a big event in history, like a battle or an earthquake, could have been two quite different things. Both things happened, but because they could not exist together, the worlds split apart and took their new courses independently. What's more, it is common for people to have at least one exact double populating several of these other world... Confused? Don't be - The Magicians of Caprona is the second instalment in the fascinating life of Christopher Chant and explains everything you ever needed to know about magic, witchcraft and the black arts. There are new characters, more surprises, slippery spells and an enchanted romance too! In the Italian Dukedom of Caprona, the houses of Montana and Petrocchi control everything magical, watched over by its magnificent guardian statue, the Angel. But the families have been feuding for years so when all the spells that are meant to vanquish the threat of war from other city-states all start going wrong - each predictably blames the other. It is only when the young Tonino Montana and Angelica Petrocchi suddenly disappear that rumours of a White Devil who threatens the Angel of Caprona are taken seriously. Family differences must be cast aside to save the day from an evil enchanter, and lives cannot be saved without the involvement of the magic man they call Chrestomanci.

Read our review

Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones

When the note, written in ordinary ballpoint, turns up in the homework books Mr Crossley is marking, he is very upset. For this is Larwood House, a school for witch-orphans, where witchcraft is utterly forbidden. And yet magic keeps breaking out all over the place - like measles! The last thing they need is a visit from the Divisional Inquisitor. If only Chrestomanci could come and sort out all the trouble.

Read our review

The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones

Think of a world, almost like our own but a little more genteel and old-fashioned, where magic and witchcraft is as common as mathematics - but just as dangerous in the wrong hands. In The Lives of Christopher Chant - the fourth book in her Worlds of Chrestomanci series - Diana Wynne Jones succeeds in creating a vision of England close to our expectations of what should be, but subtly different enough to excite our interest and draw us into a strange new world of incredible reality and possibilities. Christopher Chant is a dreamer, a boy who returns home each night with strange gifts from his nocturnal travels and leaves sand in his bed as proof. He's happy to play cricket and wander the world in secret - so having nine lives and being the next Chrestomanci is not part of his plans for the future. It's only when an evil smuggler known as The Wraith threatens his existence that the young Christopher truly takes hold of his destiny. He must try to halt his loss of lives and defeat evil before times runs out. Set at least 20 years before the events as told in the first Chrestmanci novel, Charmed Life, The Lives of Christopher Chant is a detailed fantasy and wild adventure with dollops of humour that will challenge and intrigue every fan of this sequence of otherworldly novels.

Read our review

Mixed Magics by Diana Wynne Jones

The Stealer of Souls combines the inhabitants of Chrestomanci Castle during Charmed Life and one of the young characters from The Magicians of Caprona to great effect, creating a tale with all the usual suspects - original fantasy, spooky humour, substantial characters and a dastardly plot to ruin Chrestomanci and take over the worlds. It's vintage Dianna Wynne Jones. But there's more. Alongside the new story is another not published in the UK before, Carol Oneir's Hundreth Dream. In it, Chrestomanci is called upon to find out why a young dream-maker is unable to realise her landmark hundredth Dream film. The magician must go deep inside her mind to unravel her true intentions. Two further collected stories from other anthologies - Warlock at the Wheel and The Sage of Theare - both feature characters new and old, making Mixed Magics a tantalising glimpse of the quality of fantasy that has gone before - and hopefully what is still to come.

Read our review

Conrad's Fate by Diana Wynne Jones

This book is a light read, yet both droll and heartfelt without going over the top in any direction. Interlocking mysteries involving vivid characters solve themselves nicely at the end, tying up the book in a most satisfactory manner. If you aren’t looking for something deep or you have a younger reader to entertain, this is the book for you.

Read our review

The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones

Spells always have consequences and it's Chrestomanci's job to make sure everything is safely under control. Even so, in the village around Chrestomanci Castle, all sorts of secret magical misuse is going on. And when Cat Chant finds the Pinhoe egg, chaos is just the beginning! A masterpiece of magic, mayhem and mirth!

Read our review