“But I’m so short,” I said. “Riannan’s nearly as tall as you.”
“Quite a beanpole,” Ogo said impatiently. “If you’re determined to think of yourself as an ugly midget, go ahead. But don’t expect me to sympathize.”
I finished the Islands of Chaldea, by Diana and Ursula! This was my first time reading it, and I found it delightful. I was half-expecting a DWJ version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but I was both wrong and incorrect in that expectation. The Islands of Chaldea was very much its own thing and very Diana.
I am very curious about where Ursula took over the story. Her afterword explains that the manuscript broke off partway through, and Diana never kept notes for her stories, so Ursula had to just figure it out and make it happen. My tentative guess is that Ursula started writing around chapter XI, because at that point the story starts getting a little too tidy and the different open threads start gathering themselves up a little too easily. Diana’s stories always seem chaotic and messy until the very end, where you realize everything was inevitable all along, so the tidiness of the last few chapters of this book stood out to me.
(If any of you have read this book and have a theory on where Ursula started writing, let’s chat because I love hearing opinions on this.)
In Diana’s stories, a lot of the real magical work is always left up to the children, and so there’s often a high number of bad and/or incompetent adults. This was still the case in the Islands of Chaldea, but there was actually more than one good adult, too! I especially loved Aunt Beck. She reminded me of an older, somewhat more arrogant and bitter Sophie Hatter (the story explains why by the end). I could definitely picture Sophie acting like this and making these choices, if she were in this situation. Finn the monk was another good adult character and I loved his pure observations on everything. He did not get distracted by drama.
I never expect romance in Diana’s books, and then I’m always surprised if/when there is one. No spoilers but the romance in this book was freaking cute, and I loved Aileen’s “Ah yes, I have chosen him to be my husband, it is known, let it be thus” attitude.
There’s a good sense of the history and mythology of Chaldea, thanks to the main characters essentially taking a walking tour of the islands. I would love some more stories about this world, especially about the bards of Gallis and the Guardians of the islands. And the Land of Lone! The set-up is good enough for another quartet like Dalemark. Alas.
Overall, I was surprised by how coherent this book was (since it was an unplanned collaboration), and pleased with how much magic, humor, and fun was smashed into one small book.
Next up: Eight Days of Luke! It’s been years since I’ve read this one but it’s a favorite.