[DWJ] Some brief reviews

Ellen Willcox eawil3 at email.wm.edu
Mon Feb 4 15:42:23 EST 2013

I read the quartet with a lot of space in between them, since I had to
find them all.  I don't think, therefore, that I made as many
connections as I might have if I read them closer together.  I should
really reread them all, especially since The Spellcoats and Drowned
Ammett, for totally different reasons, managed the impressive feat of
engaging me despite having their characters spend a lot of time on

This is a quirk of me as a reader:  I like real-life boats and
boating, but I usually groan when fictional people step aboard one,
especially to go to sea.  I think it's because many writers feel the
need to describe the sea in ways they might think are poetic but which
in fact sound just like the ways all the other writers describe it, so
I wind up with the impression of a boring and repetitive landscape
that I have really seen enough of already.  And then the events that
tend to happen at sea are - as DWJ herself points out in The Tough
Guide to Fantasyland - often the same.  Storm, attack by pirates,
maybe a sea serpent.  Been there, done that.

In The Spellcoats, of course, the characters are on a boat but not
actually at sea, so things are quite different.  And in Drowned
Ammett, what's going on between the characters aboard the boat is
completely engaging to me before we even get to the islands.

I love, love, love the short stories.  I read "The Fluffy Pink
Toadstool" to a class of fifth-graders for a community read about two
months back.  I wondered a little if the kids would have trouble with
the Britishisms, since they (like me) are American, and we do not have
sloes or chip shops.  But it was never a problem for me when I read
DWJ's stories as a kid (although my eight-year-old self did think that
this "Wales" place that Howl and Sophie visit was just another made-up
land, only one with cars and computer games), and it did not bother
them, either.  They seemed to like the story, too.

I liked Magicians of Caprona pretty well, but it's nowhere near
wresting Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant from the top
of my Chrestomanci favorites list.

- Nic

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