I loved reading Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones. It was a delightful book, especially in its Diana Wynne Jones-ness. I’ve been trying to think how to explain it. It’s original, and new, and independent of her other books. But so many elements I expect from her were here.
There was the earnest young boy, presently displaced, possessed of powerful magic. There was a well-meaning though absent-minded man, also possessed of powerful magic, who holds a position of responsibility in the magical world. There was a full cast of quirky supporting characters. Many characters were somehow paired with others (I don’t mean romantically–in a more thematic sense). There’s a mysterious magical threat, involving another world. And it’s all set in an English village amidst rolling hills.
It’s like the quintessential Diana Wynne Jones book. It all comes together to create a charming and, for fans, familiar atmosphere, while being a new book. It makes it all rather poignant to know it was the last one published during her lifetime.
The story centers around Aidan, the earnest young boy, and Andrew, the well-meaning, absent-minded man. Aidan is an orphan, fleeing from mysterious, magical Stalkers. He ends up at Andrew’s big old house in the country, where Andrew is trying to figure out how to take over the magical reins from his recently-deceased grandfather. They have adventures with magic, the Stalkers, a village fair, and an enemy neighbor with his own magic. Also, there’s a giant, a werewolf, bizarrely large vegetables, and colored glass windows they’re sure have magic somehow.
The book is lovely–though not totally without flaws. The point of view jumps haphazardly between Andrew and Aidan, which mixed me up occasionally. It doesn’t help that their names have similar letters in them, making them run together sometimes so I lost track of who was thinking.
I also had a little trouble with the state of magic in this world. Most of the characters seem to accept magic as perfectly natural–one character even mentions it when convincing Andrew to hire her as a secretary, and refers to it much the way she might refer to ability with typing. However, I think most of the characters accept magic because they live in a particular place where magic is strong, as there are some hints that most of the rest of the world doesn’t believe in magic. The complicated part is that Andrew has managed to forget most of what his grandfather taught him about magic. When there’s a host of characters who think magic is ordinary, coupled with a main character who accepts magic but can’t remember much about it, I don’t know whether to view magic as ordinary or mysterious.
But both these problems, the magic and the point of view, seem to improve as the book goes on, and neither is serious enough at any point to spoil the book. Definitely a high recommendation here.