Fire and Hemlock (was Fantasy starter pack)

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at
Fri May 14 11:49:19 EDT 2004

On Friday, May 14, 2004, at 10:38 AM, Ika wrote:

> Hallie wrote:
>> I'd definitely put in a vote for Fire and Hemlock
> and a few other people mentioned it, and that reminded me that when I 
> was
> first poking through the list archives online a while ago I was really
> surprised to see Fire & Hemlock (and Deep Secret) so high on the list of
> favourites, as they're probably two of my three least favourite DWJs.*
> This has nothing to do with putting together a fantasy starter pack, 
> as I
> read barely any adult fantasy, so my preferences probably aren't helpful
> in trying to convert anyone, but I'd be very interested to hear what
> people see in Fire & Hemlock in particular.

Personally, I think the default is that you've to defend your 
non-likingness of Fire and Hemlock, rather than the other way round, but 
just to humour you...   ;)

This is off the top of my head, and given that said head is not feeling 
too brilliant atm, so this may all be revised.  (Or will be said much 
better by others, saving me the need to revise.)   I love Fire and 
Hemlock in part just because it's such a great story - all the 
complexity and layers and everything wouldn't make it if it didn't have 
that basis, but for me it does.  Then, given that it has some of my 
favourite themes (not favourite if they're done as by-the-numbers 
bibliotherapy for teens, obviously!) - learning to be able to disregard 
what other people might think, or not letting it dictate your behaviour 
at least, learning to balance compassion and empathy for others with 
what you need to do, the willingness to admit that you've made a mistake 
and try to do what you can to rectify it.  And this is all treated with 
the most gloriously complex layering of myth, legend, fairy tale, 
literary allusions - oh my!  Then I love the basic story of Tam Lin (in 
part because it's one of those stories which has an active heroine), and 
I love the way DWJ has taken what she wants and what works from the 
tales she's using and blithely discarded what doesn't work, instead of 
allowing herself be restricted by the story she's re-telling.

There's also something about its complexity which just works perfectly 
for me, too, though some other complex books leave me feeling thicker 
than a plank - this one just fit with some F&H-shaped slot in my brain 
or something.  Much harder to explain it than to just have it all feel 
perfectly sense-making from the first read, mind, as I know from writing 
up a few 'what *does* the ending of F&H mean' type posts!

And I love the others in the Dumas Quartet, and the books Tom sends, and 
Tom himself, and Granny and the pots of tea, and the gifts, and the 
three-person goddess aspect of the characters, and Ivy's and Reg's 
awfulness is just so perfectly done, and the heroic driving, and the 
lessons Tom gives Polly through the books, and ...  I could go on for a 
while, but probably enough for now!

So what don't you like about it?


To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at

More information about the Dwj mailing list