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Mixed Magics contains four short stories set in the universe of Diana Wynne Jones's Chrestomanci novels. The first, 'Warlock at the Wheel' catalogues the misadventures of the Willing Warlock (one of the minor antagonists from Charmed Life) when he tries to escape to a parallel universe and steal a car, which unfortunately turns out to be occupied by a small girl and a large dog. There wasn't a lot to this one; I know that the Chrestomanci novels are generally written for younger readers than some of DWJ's other books, but this felt as though it was aimed at very young children.

I liked 'Stealer of Souls'a lot more. This story recounts an episode in the lives of Cat Chant (Charmed Life) and Tonino Montana (The Magicians of Caprona), and also gives readers another sight of several of the supporting characters from The Lives of Christopher Chant, many years later. I liked this much more than the first story; it was nice to revisit the characters and it provided some interesting character development for Cat in particular.

The third story, 'Carol Oneir's Hundredth Dream' is about what happens when Carol (the world's youngest best-selling dreamer) is taken to consult Chrestomanci about the difficulties she is experiencing in recording her hundredth dream. It's a slyly witty look at the creative process, writer's block and the differences between producing genuine art and simply churning out the same things again and again.

The final story, 'The Sage of Theare' is set in the world of Theare, where the gods are highly organised and are thrown into a panic at the prophecy that a Sage of Dissolution has been born. Unfortunately, their attempts to thwart the prophecy cause further problems, which require Chrestomanci's intervention to resolve. I think this was my favourite of the stories, mostly because I enjoyed the philosophical aspects.

It's quite a slight book, both literally (only 160-odd pages in the edition I have) and in terms of the stories themselves; not DWJ's best, but enjoyable nonetheless and perfect when I wanted something undemanding.
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It's taken me several years to track down a copy of A Sudden Wild Magic, one of only two novels for adults written by Diana Wynne Jones (the other, Deep Secret, appears to have been repackaged as Young Adult to go with The Merlin Conspiracy, which is set in the same universe and features at least one recurring character, but is clearly aimed at a younger audience). Given how hard it was to get, and how little it seemed to be rated by reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads, I was a bit worried that it was actually going to turn out to be dreadful, particularly as the blurb on the back said "It is up to the Ring, a secret society of witches and warlocks dedicated to the continuance and well-being of mankind, to fight the virtuous, unbendingly traditional stronghold of Arth with an arsenal of psychological sabotage, internal dissension -- and kamikaze sex..." and I wasn't at all sure I wanted to read about kamikaze sex. (Spoiler: there is not actually any kamikaze sex in the book, although there are enough references to non-kamikaze sex that I can't see this being repackaged as YA any time soon. Someone makes a throwaway comment about it at one point, and the blurbers clearly felt that it would sell more copies. If you did want to read about kamikaze sex, this is not the book to do it in.)

Essentially, this is classic DWJ, full of witches and wizards, overlapping plots and interlinked multiple universes. Several of the plot threads reminded me of her other books, particularly Fire and Hemlock, but the familiar elements were combined in a different enough order that I didn't feel that was a problem. The main difference between it and the rest of her books is that while some of the central characters are young adults in their late teens/early 20s, most of them are older adults (including one wonderful witch of a certain age who reminded me a lot of Granny Weatherwax). I thought it was great fun, if a bit silly, with engaging characters, and while I don't think it's her best book I rather liked reading a DWJ about adults for once.
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House of Many Ways is the third of Diana Wynne Jones's loose trilogy of novels that began with Howl's Moving Castle. Like the second, Castle in the Air, it's set in a different part of the series universe and has its own main characters, but Sophie, Howl and Calcifer also feature (and at least one minor character from Castle in the Air makes it into this one).

I don't think either of the sequels is a patch on Howl's Moving Castle, really, and I thought this was the weakest of the three (the villains seemed particulary ill-developed), but even a less-good DWJ is still pretty good; it was a fun read and a nice bit of light relief after Dorothy Dunnett's plot twists and tendency to make her heroes suffer.
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When I read Diana Wynne Jones's Dalemark books in the mid-80s, there were only three of them, and I didn't really get a lot of things in them as they were a lot more complicated than most of her other books which I was reading at the time. So when I found the fourth book (published in 1993, after I had gone to university and stopped looking in the children's sections of bookshops, because somehow it never occurred to me that the authors I'd loved five or ten years earlier were still writing new books) in the Oxfam bookshop a few years ago I bought it, and then bought the other three so I could re-read them and remind myself of what happened in them. I re-read Cart and Cwidder quite some time ago now, eventually moved on to Drowned Ammet last summer and picked The Spellcoats off the shelf this weekend.

The Spellcoats )

The Crown of Dalemark )


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