A Tribute to Dianna Wynne Jones

Howl's Moving Castle Cover 2When I’m with a book, I’m never alone.

I said this the other day and promptly realized it is not dorky, or a cry for help, but a truth about book people.

I’m a fan of rereading my favorite books because they’re like best friends. You want to catch up and remember the good times after you haven’t seen each other for a while. This is also true of certain authors. Their voice becomes familiar, like a warm blanket you keep on the couch. One of my favorite blankets authors is fantasy writer Dianna Wynne Jones, who recently passed away. I just finished her last book, The Islands of Chaldea, with a melancholy satisfaction. It was full of her usual quirk and humor in a United Kingdom-esque realm, but it’s sad to think there won’t be another new story from one of the most enjoyable and prolific young adult fantasy writers of all time.

Jones is undervalued in academia and the YA marketing machine. I’ve rarely seen a book of hers on a reading list or found a title of hers on a “Top 100” list. But if Miyazaki loved her world enough to turn Howl’s Moving Castle into a film, I’m clearly not alone in my thinking her a storyteller to reckon with. She exemplifies one of the most ethereal qualities in writing: voice. Each of her books are fresh and unique, but you know who’s telling the story. She also does subtle conflict startlingly well. Jones doesn’t write action-packed tales chalk full of page-turning suspense. She writes life-like journeys. You finish the book and regret that the trip is over.

Another facet of Diana Wynne Jones’ storytelling is its completeness. None of her books are screaming for a sequel, yet some have it. Each story is a full package. My first encounter with Jones was actually the fourth book in a series of four. I was so entranced by the story, which was itself immersive and entertaining, that I finished that one outright, went back to the beginning and then reread the last book.

So here’s to you, Diana Wynne Jones. You will be missed but thankfully, your words live on. You’ve inspired me to be a better writer. You’ve made me realize that character details and quirks are important enough to drive a story. You’ve made me wander in realms concocted from your boundless imagination. Your stories make me want to return and hear the voice once again of an old friend.

My Favorite Diana Wynne Jones Books/Series

*Sadly, some of these are out of print but hey! Remember that place called the library?

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle
  2. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci (a series of 6 plus short stories starting with Charmed Life)
  3. The Dalemart Quartet (starting with Cart and Cwidder)
  4. The Islands of Chaldea

Have a favorite author that’s unappreciated? Something to say about Diana Wynne Jones? Let me know below.