Friday, April 30, 2010
Review of Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones
Jones, Diana Wynne. Enchanted Glass. Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 2010.
As I read Enchanted Glass, I was struck by the phrase "field-of-care." Although it's never clearly defined to the reader, it can be understood by the context to be the magical territory over which a caretaker or custodian has responsibility, in order to ensure that magical doings are all on the up-and-up, supernatural forces remain in balance, and nasty creatures don't take over. This is a profoundly comforting thought - other folks, wise and experienced, are taking care of magical goings-on so that we don't have to.
When Andrew Hope inherits Melstone House from his grandfather Jocelyn Brandon, he also inherits the field-of-care all around the house and the town of Melton. Although Andrew grew up well aware of magic, and though his grandfather had taught him a lot about the mysteries of Melstone House when Andrew was a boy, Andrew doesn't realize he has a field-of-care to worry about. Unfortunately, this field-of-care is being threatened by a powerful and nefarious character named Mr. Brown, one of "those who do not use iron" and worse, he seems to be gunning for young Aidan, who has showed up on Andrew's doorstep after the death of his grandmother.
As Aidan's granny was also in charge of her own field-of-care, Aidan is also no stranger to magic and can both work a bit of his own and see magical ability in others. And there's a lot to see, as the land around Melstone House is awash with were-animals, giants, and any number of other folks who don't use iron. Even the ordinary people possess rather extraordinary talents. Aidan settles happily into life at Melstone House - or would, if King Oberon weren't trying to kill him.
Despite a plot that sounds rich with menace and thrills, this is more a pleasant and even relaxing stroll through a land imbued with magic, peopled by the kind of eccentric villagers that fans of British fiction relish - the stubborn and crotchety gardener, the opinionated and crotchety housekeeper, and so on. The matter-of-fact way the villagers accept the odd magic creeping about the corners of their very ordinary lives reminds me of Joan Aiken's Armitage stories.
The only really frustrating part of this book is how little is explained or delved into. I wanted to know much more about the powerful panes of colored glass, the magical "shed," the strange phenomenon of "counterparts," and so on. The book ends with a revelation that is rather an anticlimax, and then one assumes that everyone lives happily ever after (there is even a romance), but of course I hope there will be another book about Melstone House and Melton village.
Although not her best, this is still a must for all Diana Wynne Jones fans and for fans of British fantasy for young people. For grades 4 - 7.
Posted by Eva M