I have become a Diana Wynne Jones fan, more so with each book of hers that I read. She writes young adult books that have the diction for that audience with a narrative style for adults, resembling, in some ways, that most nebulous of marketing categories, magic realism. The magic in a Jones story is definitely real–but it is the attitude towards that magic that is taken by the characters that meets my definition of the term; they might be initially surprised by the strange happenings, but they accept it easily…and not just the children, who are notoriously flexible in YA books.
In this novel Jones explores a mythos largely ignore by contemporary fantasists (who can’t seem to get their heads out of England’s Dark Ages or something similar). It took me a chapter or two to confirm my suspicion of this link, and then my mind opened to seeing each new character emerge, trying to place it with my sketchy knowledge (based on comics and opera) of that mythology. The puzzle made the book most exciting for me; most young adults would probably not have any knowledge of the mythology and their ride would be based on the plot.
Her writing is accessible–very–although it is definitely anglo- centric. The protagonist talks cricket, attends boarding school, etc. This might be a problem for some U.S. readers, while others (like me) relish the references to British culture. The plot is not quite as strong or original as those in the Chrestomanci books, but very much worth your time.
[Finished April 1999]