Cooper and DWJ's optimism --watch for SPOILER ALERT

Loehr, Mallory mloehr at
Thu Dec 9 08:49:39 EST 1999

I think the biggest thing that separates DWJ from almost all other authors
of complex fantasy is her sense of humor. Most of her books are terribly
funny, and in a very real way (rather than the mean Dahl way). In fact few
writers of any kind of books are as genuinely, humanly, funny as DWJ in good
form. (And the only other genuinely funny one I can think of are children's
writers--Ellen Raskin and Louis Sacher for example, and even picturebook
writers--Chris Rashka or Rosemary Wells) The humor lightens everything, so
that even though her books can be darker than others the overall feeling is
one of hope...yes? For example, in Witch Week, there is the hysterically
funny Simon Says epidsoe, but there is also the incredibly scary moment when
whathisname burns his finger with a match thinking about how much it would
hurt to burn to death (talk about dark--yikes!). Yet both these episodes fit
into the same book, and do so simply and without conflict. It's stuff like
this, that magic or no, make DWJ books more real and true to life than most
others I've read. What can I say? She's a goddess!
> ----------
> From: 	EstairM at
> Reply To: 	dwj at
> Sent: 	Thursday, December 9, 1999 7:36 AM
> To: 	dwj-digest at
> Subject: 	Cooper and DWJ's optimism --watch for SPOILER ALERT
> Hi all.
> I haven't read Cooper's stuff since I was a kid.  I loved it then, and
> part 
> of what I loved was the 'dark' feeling much of it had.  Being fated to be
> an 
> Old One, love and betrayal, etc.  It made me feel more grown-up.  I don't 
> know if I'd like it so much today (am expecting baby #7 around my 39th
> b-day 
> next month ;-)
> But though I'm a die-hard DWJ fan ever since I picked up Dogsbody, Power
> of 
> Three and the Magicians of Caprona at a used book sale more than 20 yrs
> ago, 
> I admit I'm puzzled by people thinking her books are optimistic.  In a 
> certain way, to me, many of them are much 'darker' than Coopers.  After
> all 
> Cooper's are more supernatural Good Guys vs supernatural Bad Guys, so the 
> scary dark parts are easily dismissible after the Good Guys win.
> But in many of DWJ's books, the truly scary evil comes from very ordinary 
> human beings.  In many of the books, a child is really threatened by an 
> immediate family member.The whole Dalemark Quartet is very dark because it
> portrays the ordinary murderous ways people can behave to each other.  
> For example, in The Spellcoats, the villagers readiness to kill a bunch of
> kids because they are different.  Or the ways the Earls have power over
> life 
> and death in the later books -- and use it, along with torture, and other 
> soul-destroying terror tactics on the population.  This is realistic 
> representation of what has happened in many times and places in our world
> and 
> is very depressing.  (Speaking as a child of a Holocaust survivor.) 
> Some of the hardest stuff to deal with in DWJ's books is how often
> immediate 
> family members are truly evil and dangerous to children.  Gwendolen, C 
> Chant's uncle, and for me, the worst, Mitt's father.  I really didn't see
> him 
> coming the first time I read Drowned Ammet, and couldn't handle it for
> days.  
> It took years to re-read the book.  END OF SPOILER ALERT
> Some of her books are lighter and more optimistic, Magicians of Caprona 
> springs to mind.  I read that one aloud to my older kids and they loved
> it. 
> Archer's Goon, most of the Chrestomancy stuff, Howl's Castle.  But Time of
> the Ghost!!!!!  Or the Homeward Bounders? Optimistic?!
> Disagreements with any of the above more than welcome. ;-)
> Esther 
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