This book — a new one by beloved fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones — is prototypical high fantasy, teeming with magic and fairies and all sorts of otherworldly creatures. There’s a magician, Andrew, who (possibly because he’s also an absent-minded professor) doesn’t quite remember what he’s supposed to do. There’s a lovely little romance with a spunky neighbor girl. There’s a boy, Aiden, at the center of the story, drawing power to himself — sort of, anyway — and trying to find a place where he belongs. There are crotchety, yet lovable, characters — Mr. Stock the gardener and Mrs. Stock the housekeeper (no relation; don’t even suggest it) and their various punishments and intimidations foremost among them. There are adventure and mystery; the story is bursting with questions: who is Aiden, what is his purpose and who, exactly, is the reclusive Mr. Brown in the Manor next door? And, of course, there’s the mounting tension as Andrew and Aiden slowly figure out what is going on in the village around the house. But, most of all, there is Jones’ thoroughly wonderful writing. It’s not poetic like other writers, but there is a sparseness about it that makes you realize there is nothing wasted between the covers.
A quick passage, from the beginning, to give you a feel:
“One way or another, it was nearly a year before Andrew could move into Melstone House.
“Then he had to make sure that the various small legacies in his grandfather’s Will were paid, and he did that too; but he was vaguely puzzled that this Will, when he saw it, was quite a different size and shape from the paper his grandfather’s ghost tried to give him. He shrugged and gave Mrs. Stock her five hundred pounds.
” ‘And I do hope you’ll continue to work for me just as you did for my grandfather,” he said.
“To which she retorted, ‘I don’t know what you’d do if I didn’t. You live in a world of your own, being a professor.’
“Andrew took this to mean yes. ‘I’m not a professor,’ he pointed out mildly. ‘Just a mere academic.’ ”
If you haven’t read her before, you really ought to. It’s a rollicking good time of a book, one that will keep you coming back for more.
Rated: Mild, for a few instances of mild language