Thursday, June 02, 2011

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones

I try to be an optimist -- it's difficult, since my inclination is entirely the other way, but optimists clearly have better lives -- and so I will not call this Diana Wynne Jones's last novel. It was published last year, a year before her death, and, though she wasn't well, she hadn't been well for most of the past decade, and had still managed to write several good books in that time. So, until it's proven otherwise, I'll continue to hope that there's one more book, finished or not quite so, lurking in her papers, which may yet appear.

(We all die, after all, and then all that's left is the memories of people who knew us -- which diminish, bit by bit, year by year, until they're gone as well -- and the work we did, which can sometimes last much longer. And Jones's work will last, I predict, as long as there are smart kids with a love for stories and a questioning nature about the world -- as long as people are reading and telling and enjoying stories.)

Enchanted Glass is a late Jones novel, loving and happy and life-affirming, though it does have more plot and danger than House of Many Ways (which I reviewed a few years back). Like many Jones novels, it's set in a world steeped in magic -- one where magic can do anything, and solve any problems, if you can just figure out the right way to use it. And Jones's worlds, in her late novels, also are biased in favor of her protagonists -- hers are worlds that want to be set right, to be full of happy people living full, fulfilling lives after they drive the bad people away. None of that may describe the world we actually live in, of course -- but, given the choice, wouldn't we all vastly prefer Jones's worlds?

This time out, we have two main characters. The first is semi-absent-minded professor Andrew Hope, a thirty-something history teacher who has just inherited a big house and its associated "field of care" from his grandfather, the great magician Jocelyn Brandon, though he doesn't quite appreciate his own capacity for magic or the duties he's supposed to take up with that magic. And the other is tween Aidan Cain, just orphaned by the death of his grandmother (also a powerful magician) and being pursued by at least three bands of nonhuman creatures that clearly wish him ill. Aidan's grandmother told him to seek out Jocelyn Brandon if he was in danger, and so he does -- but what he finds is Andrew.

Since this is a book of hope and community-building, Andrew takes Aidan in, despite the grumblings of his stereotypically pushy and set-in-their-ways employees, Mr. Stock (who cares for the grounds, mostly using them to grow gigantic vegetables to exhibit at the upcoming Fete) and Mrs. Stock (no relation, who cares for the house, mostly moving furniture back to the places she thinks it should be and cooking meals Andrew won't eat). And those two each learn pieces of what is really going on at Melstone House and environs, as Aidan survives various attacks by forces by the ones who can't touch iron and Andrew has a significant old shed on his property cleaned and resorted.

That's all caught up in the usual stuff of small-town life -- gossip, walking boundaries, dealing with deliveries of outsized vegetables, and unexpected connections among nearly everyone in the vicinity, all leading up to that Fete, which forms the climax of Enchanted Glass. Along the way, Andrew will discover who is encroaching on his field of care -- and why he should worry about that -- and the connection with Aidan's attackers. And, of course, there's plenty of magic along the way, mostly performed by the good guys. Enchanted Glass is not one of Jones's major books, but it's warm and sweet and good-hearted, coming from the strand of YA fiction that tells oddball kids that they will find a place where they will fit in and be loved, a lovely book that it's very difficult not to smile all the way through.

No comments:

Post a Comment