Friday, March 21, 2014

DWJ: Catchup!

I don't quite want to skip over all those prompts from the last week because some of them are my favorite books.  So:

Wizard Derk:  Two very different books!  Dark Lord of Derkholm is a hilarious sendup of traditional sword-and-sorcery quest-type fantasy books, a genre full of Tolkien imitations.  I think it reached its peak in the 70s and early 80s, and now things are really kind of different, but if you've ever read Terry Brooks or other innumerable fantasies, Dark Lord is hysterical.  It also has a real story going on amid the scramble to put on a show, and some things cannot be fixed by a magic wand at the end of the story.  Then, The Year of the Griffin is a whole different kind of story; Elda, one of the younger griffin siblings from Dark Lord, goes off to university.  It's a wonderful take on college life--the way you find a group of friends and then help each other muddle through.  Elda's friends are from all over the world and each of them has a different serious problem; and together they can solve a lot, though not the barstool problem.  I think at this point I've re-read Griffin more often than Dark Lord.

The edition I read first
Archer's Goon is one of my very very favorites.  So many perfect sentences!  I've read it a zillion times and recently read it aloud to my kids.  That 10yo of mine loved it.  It's so funny, and at bottom it's also about freedom and power.  So many people trying to control each other, not always consciously.  What do you do with a tyrant?  How do you make sure not to turn into a tyrant yourself?
All power corrupts, but we need electricity.

And finally, Fire and Hemlock.  My all-time favorite DWJ book, but you have to work up to it.  Never hand this to a DWJ beginner!  The story is so complex and contains not only clear references to old legends but more subtle allusions to a whole lot of poetry, literature, and myth.  The ending won't make sense to you for years, though I think I got more of it last time I read it.  Again, there is a lot here about how people try to exert control over each other--sometimes by magic in the story but just as often by manipulation or threat--and the importance of being free and allowing others their freedom.  Possibly to DWJ the most important part of personal freedom is in not trying to control others with it?   

Another edition I first read
Liberty, especially from tyrannical people near you, is a theme that shows up in...well, nearly all of the books really, but very much so in
Fire and Hemlock and Archer's Goon.  Year of the Griffin as well, so this is quite a themed day here.  Dark Lord is in fact about a whole world in slavery, that cannot get free until enough people actually want to.


Jenny at Sentimental Drivel (most awesome title ever!) said today that her "favorite thing about Diana’s writing is that there is not a word she writes that doesn’t have purpose." Which expresses it perfectly.  A sentence might not look like much at first, but it will turn out to have 2 or 3 layers that you don't discover until later.

5 comments:

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Sometimes I try to think which DWJ book sits at the perfect intersection of how much I love it and how little I would feel confident about recommending it to a DWJ newbie. It's funny how many of my very very favorites are so far away from being the ones I'd recommend -- Archer's Goon I'd never recommend to a new DWJ reader, ditto Homeward Bounders and Fire and Hemlock and Time of the Ghost.

(I love Witch Week a lot, though, and I'd recommend that to a DWJ newbie, probably.)

Anonymous said...

Oh, I have a special spot in my heart for Year of the Griffin. I love it so, so much. There are so many "magical school" trope-books out there where the magical school is amazing and great and helps its students live up to their potential...but then there's the Wizard College, which is poorly funded and employs teachers who hate teaching and brush over their students in favor of their own research. I hated college, and I read this book over and over to make myself feel better about hating it so much.

sentimentaldriveltgl said...

Er, that last comment was me! (Jenny @ Sentimental Drivel).

Jean said...

Sentimental Drivel Jenny--by George, YOU'RE RIGHT! I never made that connection. Ha! I am doubly amused now. (I loved college, maybe that's why I didn't notice.)

Reading the End Jenny, I agree there too. All the very favorites are too...out there? for a newbie. You have to sort of work them into it and start with Chrestomanci or Howl's Moving Castle. I have successfully used Dogsbody.

Kristen M. said...

The biggest problem with all of these book focus days is that I want to reread all of the books right now! I settled for Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant but wish I had time for Derkholm and Griffin. Maybe I'll just read those this summer anyway.