British author Diana Wynne Jones died yesterday at the age of seventy-six. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009. Apparently she was in the middle of a novel, with plans for another, when she died.
Diana Wynne Jones wrote fantasy and science fiction that was billed as “young adult”, which I discovered in my thirties and which I believe I’ve enjoyed every bit as much as if I’d been twelve. All the web references I’ve seen have talked about “Howl’s Moving Castle”, but my favourite of hers is “Power of Three”.
She developed magical worlds with rules that held and gave a firm structure to her stories. She didn’t let children off easily – bad things sometimes happened in her books, but they always followed logically and rationally from the developments of the story. She created some really wonderful characters, too, who were real people as well as – sometimes – magic users. She understood the dangers of magic, and of playing around with what you don’t understand, and she demonstrated it in such books as “Eight Days of Luke” and “The Time of the Ghost”.
When the Harry Potter novels came out, one of the things I loved was that there was also a resurgence of interest in Diana Wynne Jones’ work. Many of her books were re-issued. There was always a Chrestomanci novel or two on the bookstore shelves – although I could never, ever figure out whether they shelved them under “J” or “W”, and often the bookstore staff didn’t know, either.
My collection of her works is far from complete. I’ll be going on line sometime over the next few weeks to see if I can find some of the ones I’m missing.
The world of fantasy and science fiction has lost a wonderful writer, but I hope that her influence, as well as her stories, will continue.