Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

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The Early(ish) Morning Review: Hexwood - Diana Wynne Jones

If there's one good thing to be said for the Harry Potter hype, it's that it's brought Diana Wynne Jones' literate and intelligent fantasies to the attention of a wider world. Best known for her young adult works, Diana has recently written several adult novels. While not explicitly one of these, Hexwood is a transitional novel, bridging the more conventional YA fanatsies with the more complex themes of her adult novels.

There's a common theme in many of Diana Wynne Jones' novels: the world we live in is more complex than we can possibly know, and we are being protected from those complexities. Sometimes, as in the Chrestomanci stories, that protection is beign. In others, such as Hexwood, there is something more sinister at foot. Her novels unfold those deeper secrets, as her characters grow and change. Yes, this is metaphor for the transition from childhood to the adult world, but it is also the story of our adult lives as well, as we move from day to day, changing to meet the demands of the world.

Hexwood begins as the story of a sick girl solving a mystery. It rapidly turns into a story of a galaxy ruled by malignant overlords (Doctor Who fans will probably see them as Time Lords gone bad) who are threatened by an out of control machine stored on an out of the way world. Events in a mysterious wood and in an Arthurian castle soon become crucial to a 4000 year old power struggle, and the relationship between ruler and ruled.

More than a YA novel, Hexwood is an entertaining and literate novel, that takes the structure of a grail quest, mixes it with a story of sexual awakening and misuse of power, to give us something uniquely Diana Wynne Jones. If you've not read Deep Secret (with its delightful depiction of an Eastercon at the Adelphi) or A Sudden Wild Magic, then this is an excellent place to start. Oh, and don't forget The Tough Guide To Fantasy Land, one of the most humourous deconstructions of doorstop fantasies around...
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