Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones: through a glass lightly …

When Andrew Hope’s magician grandfather dies, he leaves his house and field-of-care to his grandson who spent much of his childhood there. Andrew has forgotten much of this, but he remembers the very colourful stained-glass window in the kitchen door, which it is important to protect. Into this mix comes young Aidan Cain, who turns up from his foster home asking for safety. Exactly who he is and why he’s there is unclear, but there is a strong connection between the two and a mystery to be solved.

HAPPY READS

This is an enjoyable read, in spite of the fact of it being a children’s book. I can’t say it gripped me (but it would probably grip a child, says she knowing absolutely nothing about children …) and I didn’t rush back to it during the gaps in life when I wasn’t reading it, but it certainly caught my interest and even made me smile now and again, and I was engaged enough to finish it.

The writing is smooth and assured, and I think it’s that which kept me in place until the end. That and the characters, who are great, frankly. I very much enjoyed Andrew who is puzzled by his unexpected inheritance and has to come to terms with the role of magic in his life if he’s to be able to cope with the new turn of events at all. Next to him, Aidan provides a sparky counterpart and the essential young person’s viewpoint as to what might actually be happening. Both characters share the main role in the telling of the story, so it’s an interesting mix of adult and child voices, though the older Andrew understands more of what is going on.

I also, as a long-term wearer of glasses, naturally appreciated the role played by spectacles in the book, and the way it denotes character and the application, or otherwise, of magic:

Aidan stared at Andrew with his glasses in his hand. Seen by his naked eyes, this man was not really mild and sheeplike at all. He had power, great and kindly power. Aidan saw it blazing around him. Perhaps he could be some help after all.

Glasses are indeed a barrier to the world, you know; it’s why I love them so much. I also like the way that Andrew takes his pair off to clean them when he’s performing magic. Really, I must remember that little trick. Anyway, alongside Andrew and Aidan, we have the idiosyncrasies of the Stocks (definitely not related to each other) who help and hinder the running the house, plus essential emotional and comic support from the beautiful Stashe and her father Tarquin. It’s a lively household, believe me, and all the better for it. Against them, we have the strange and magical creatures who are determined to kidnap Aidan, but who can’t quite manage it as they’re not really sure what his name is and, besides, no-one will invite them into the house. And there’s also the altogether darker and far more dangerous Mr Brown in the neighbouring estate, determined to steal Andrew’s field-of-care from him and set up his own empire of magic.

The plot’s magnificent, but surprisingly subtle. It definitely keeps things rolling along, even though there were quiet patches, sometimes long ones, in the text to enable other discoveries and acquaintances to be made. There are also moments of good dramatic tension and fear however, such as the first meeting with the evil Mr Brown, or the moment when Andrew inadvertently invites the magic creatures inside the house:

Stashe knocked at the door and sang out, “May I come in, Andrew?”
“Yes, of course,” Andrew said, laying the letters down.
“Thank you,” she said, not from the door but from the open French windows. “We have to be invited in, you know.”
She was not Stashe.

I genuinely jumped at that point and had to read on.

There were a couple of issues that I did find irritating: it annoyed me that Andrew and Aidan both start with an ‘A’ and therefore more than once I needed to backtrack just to make sure the scene I was reading involved who I thought it did; there are a few occasions where point of view chops and changes within scenes, which I hate but children probably wouldn’t even notice it. I’m just obsessive about that sort of stuff, sadly. In addition, I did get rather bamboozled about the seemingly complex magic rules and explanations, but perhaps I’m simply too old to understand them. Oh, and I thought the book ended too abruptly. There needed to be a final scene including Aidan in which he’s told the information that Andrew has just discovered and has time to respond, positively, to that. I missed having it to read.

Those are all my relatively minor niggles here really, and they certainly didn’t stop me reading or appreciating both the tale and the telling. So whilst this book is an enjoyable read for adults, at its heart it’s a very good children’s fantasy book indeed. I only wish I was young enough to fully appreciate it.

Happy Reads Rating: 6 out of 10. A respectable mark
Literary Rating: 7 out of 10. Quite good stuff

Enchanted Glass, Harper Collins 2010 ISBN: 978 000 732080 6

[Anne is always partial to pretty-coloured glass. For her own particular brand of magic and mayhem, please click here.]

About annebrooke

Anne Brooke lives in Surrey, UK, and writes in a variety of genres, including gay erotic romance, fantasy, comedy, thrillers, biblical fiction and the occasional chicklit novel. When not writing, she spends time in the garden attempting to differentiate between flowers and weeds, and in the allotment attempting to grow vegetables. Occasionally, she can also be found in the kitchen making cakes. Every now and again, they are edible. Her websites can be found at: www.annebrooke.com, www.gayreads.co.uk, www.biblicalfiction.co.uk and www.gathandria.com (for fantasy fiction).

12 comments on “Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones: through a glass lightly …

  1. RosyB
    October 14, 2010

    Diana Wynne Jones wrote some of my fav books as a child like Charmed Life and The Ogre Downstairs. I think I reviewed it as part of a “When we were cubs” post here: https://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/2008/07/07/when-we-were-cubs-by-the-bookfoxes/

    She also wrote a brilliant and very spooky book called In the Time of the Ghost – that’s for older readers and perhaps not a brilliant choice for Happy Reads series. 😉 But highly recommended by me. She’s brilliant at capturing the way siblings operate in particular and how horrid girls can be…

  2. annebrooke
    October 14, 2010

    Time of the Ghost sounds great, thanks, Rosy!

    Anne
    xxx

  3. Nikki
    October 14, 2010

    I love the cover, it’s delicious! I remember reading a book by Diana Wynne Jones when I was about 12, can’t remember which one it was though. I don’t know why I didn’t read anymore of hers, because as you so wonderfully put it, her writing is “smooth and assured.” Fantastic review, Anne, thank you for reminding me of this author.

  4. Jackie
    October 14, 2010

    Like Nikki, I like the cover, it’s perfect for the book. This is an unfamiliar author, but I can see how the complex plot would appeal to kids & adults. I’m pleased at how you say she uses spectacles, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed an author doing that before. Very unique & observant.

  5. annebrooke
    October 15, 2010

    Thanks, both! Yes, I love that cover so much. And am equally pleased about the spectacles use 🙂

    Anne
    xxx

  6. Hilary
    October 15, 2010

    How refreshing to find a novel about ANOTHER boy magician. This one sounds as though it has got a lot going for it.

    I am so very much with the author, and Anne, about wearing glasses. I am so myopic that sometimes just taking the glasses off and spending a second or two in the fuzzy world is a comfort, or a little time out. So we glasses-wearers win twice – we can hide behind them and observe while wearing them, and escape momentarily by taking them off. And the transforming power of cleaning them! How often I discover I’ve been looking at life through fog – no wonder it stands in for making magic here.

  7. annebrooke
    October 15, 2010

    Yes indeed, Hilary!! Actually I feel a novel about a group of insane spectacle wearers coming on – someone stop me, for pity’s sake!!…

    🙂

    Anne
    xxx

  8. Jan Jones
    October 15, 2010

    I love all of Diana Wynne Jones’s books. She has refused to be typecast and quite happily writes a different magical-slant book each time.

    Fire and Hemlock is my very, very favourite, but Hexwood, Deep Secret, Christopher Chant, Archer’s Goon and, oh, ALL of them aren’t far behind.

  9. annebrooke
    October 15, 2010

    Thanks, Jan – I will look out for those ones 🙂

    Anne

  10. Pingback: ‘Enchanted Glass’ by Diana Wynne Jones « Between a Rock and a Hardcover

  11. Pingback: Sorcerors and siblings: the books of Diana Wynne Jones « Vulpes Libris

  12. Pingback: Diana Wynne Jones: A Collection of Mini Reviews | Iris on Books

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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