#DWJMarch 2020 Wrap-up

What a crazy month! I didn’t realize we would all get banished to our homes, but if I had, Diana Wynne Jones is probably still the author I would have turned to.

Here’s what I read this month, with links to respective blog posts:

I also read Fire and Hemlock, and listened to Year of the Griffin. Fire and Hemlock is always better than I remember it (albeit very disturbing) and Year of the Griffin is one of the most perfect books I have read. Ever.

Marie-Alice Harel/Folio Society 


#DWJMarch: Hexwood

Jacket Blurb: When Controller Borasus receives a strange letter from Earth he is both curious and alarmed. Someone has activated an ancient machine and is using it for most trivial purposes. Surely no one would dare to tamper with Reigner seals in this way? Yet the effects of such interference resonate throughout the universe, so he decides to go to Hexwood Farm to investigate…

On Hexwood Estate, Ann watches the mysterious comings and goings with interest. She knows something deadly is going on – or is Hexwood simply altering her too?

If you were cooking up stories and experimenting with mixing recipes, and for some reason you used both fantasy and science fiction, mixed in some Arthurian legends, bits of dystopia and portal fantasy, a pinch of Norse mythology, and then gave it a nice thick glaze of escape rooms, you would wind up with something very like Hexwood.

Yes, I love it.

Some Tips on Reading Hexwood

  • Keep a character list as you go along. A lot of characters have more than one name, nicknames, or are going under a fake name.
  • Keep track of timelines??? I mean it’s pretty much impossible, but make a list of anything weird or contradictory you notice about how time is passing, how different characters remember (or don’t remember) certain events, etc.
  • Don’t trust any of the characters. Pretty much all of the characters in this novel are supremely confident that they know what’s going on and what’s real. Most of them are wrong at least once.

Of course, you can ignore all of the above tips and still enjoy the book, so if you would rather do that, go for it! The first time I read Hexwood I had no idea what was happening most of the time, and it still became one of my favorite books. Peeling back the layers of what’s going on, both in the plot and with the characters, is really well-paced and structured and it just MAKES ME REALLY HAPPY, OKAY?

Also did you know you could rebel against tyranny by keeping everyone well-stocked on thrift clothes? Hexwood will show you how!

Truly Horrifying Hexwood Covers


That one with Mordion in the red coat will give me nightmares.

#DWJMarch: Reflections on Reflections

Happy Diana Wynne Jones March! #DWJMarch and #MarchMagics are hosted by WeBeReading.

51Hz1ep8qyL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_I cheated a little bit and reread Reflections, Diana’s collection of essays, last month. I encourage you to read it if you like her work, if you’re a writer, or if you’re a reader of fantasy. There is a big variety of topics in the book, but most of the pieces are focused on writing, Diana’s life, and books/reading.

If you want to learn about Diana herself, my favorites in this collection are:

• Something About the Author
• The Girl Jones
• Halloween Worms
• A Day Visiting Schools

They have lots of humorous anecdotes (and not-so-humorous) about her childhood and about her professional life. You can spot a lot of connections to things in her stories, too (especially Time of the Ghost!).

If you’re a writer or you want to know more about Diana’s process, my favorites in this collection are:

• The Heroic Ideal: A Personal Odyssey
• A Talk About Rules
• Answers to Some Questions
• Two Kinds of Writing?
• Writing for Children: A Matter of Responsibility

“The Heroic Ideal” goes into detail on the structure of Fire and Hemlock, which I find one of her most perplexing books. I always think of it as the “Tam Lin” book but as she explains, she drew from a LOT of stories as well as her personal life to write this one. “A Talk About Rules” and “Answers to Some Questions” are just fabulous insights on how to tell a good story and craft it. “Two Kinds of Writing?” and “Writing for Children” explain why she mostly wrote for children, and discusses how formative childhood books are and why that’s both amazing and dangerous.

In addition, I really enjoyed these two essays, which are directed specifically toward young writers:

• Our Hidden Gifts
• Characterization: Advice for Young Writers

They’re helpful for older writers too! She’s sneaky like that.

Last but not least, if you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings you absolutely have to read:

• The Shape of the Narrative in the Lord of the Rings

It’s one of the best structural analyses of these books, and it’s fun to read because Diana is both respectful of Tolkien’s genius and critical of his weaknesses.

The ones I’ve listed above are only a smattering of the pieces in this collection, and it’s well worth reading all the way through.


As a more general #DWJMarch update, I’ve begun reading the Islands of Chaldea and it is, unsurprisingly, delightful.

#DWJMarch 2020!

I will once again be participating in #DWJMarch (also known as #MarchMagics), hosted by WeBeReading, in which we read and celebrate the books of Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett. I will only be posting about it here on my blog, as I’m taking a social media break next month. I am planning to post one or two times a week with quotes and thoughts about whichever book I’m reading.

I’ve been rereading Reflections (Diana’s collection of essays and other nonfiction) this month already, so I am raring to go! Diana Wynne Jones is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I am always excited to read her work and talk about her to whoever will listen.

I have quite a few DWJ books I would like to reread, but I’m sure I won’t get to them all. I haven’t read Islands of Chaldea before, so that will be a first-time read for me. In order of priority, here are the books I will be choosing from:
Islands of Chaldea
Eight Days of Luke
Everard’s Ride
The Lives of Christopher Chant
Charmed Life
Conrad’s Fate
The Pinhoe Egg
Aunt Maria
Fire and Hemlock
Earwig and the Witch

Thanks to Hoopla, I have access to the audiobooks of Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin, so I will be listening to those in between other things.

Are you participating? What are you planning to read?


Other Diana Wynne Jones-themed posts by me:

What I Owe to Diana Wynne Jones

The Women of DWJ: Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle Quotes, Relevant to Many Occasions