Get Ogre It


The Ogre Downstairs, by Diana Wynne Jones – This is the first book of hers I’ve finished since her death, which gives a rather melancholy feeling. Anyway, J.L. Bell recommended this as one of his favorite Jones books. I don’t know that I found it to be one of her better ones, but it was definitely a good read. As I saw mentioned in another review of this book (I forget exactly where), the title is a little misleading coming from a fantasy author. The Ogre in question isn’t a fantastic creature, but a grumpy stepfather. Really, the main theme of the story is a step-family learning to get along. But since that sounds rather mundane to someone who prefers more whimsy in what he or she reads, it DOES also include magic. The catalyst this time is a mysterious chemistry set with substances that can be used for anything from flying to invisibility to producing the warriors from the story of Jason and the Argonauts. I have to wonder if there were any jokes in the Greek that the warriors spoke, or if it was just gibberish written in Greek letters. Also, while I figured out the names of some of the chemicals (for instance, the one that produced the warriors was “dens drac,” or dragon’s teeth), I didn’t get all of them. A very clever book that’s worth a read from any Jones fan. Just don’t expect the fantasy to be quite as prominent as it is in many of her other works.

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2 Responses to Get Ogre It

  1. vilajunkie says:

    Thanks for reviewing this! The Ogre Downstairs is one of the few books of hers I haven’t read yet, but it’s really only the oldest of her novels and a couple of Chrestomanci novels that I haven’t found at the library. This sounds like it might be more in the style of Archer’s Goon than, say, Howl’s Moving Castle. I’ve noticed that while all of her books have common elements, they can be split up into groups by the style or mood she wrote them in. The Chrestomanci series and the books with Sophie and Howl seem to be her most comedic and silly ones, whereas books like Dark Lord of Derkholm and The Merlin Conspiracy are more epic and complex. Then the last group that I’ve thought up contains books like The Ogre Downstairs and most of her earliest work; they’re more like science fiction than “true” fantasy, and the focus is on pretty ordinary main characters rather than mages in more supernatural environments like her other characters.

    What do you think about Jones’ different moods in her novels, if you think they even can be broken down into groups of stories?

    • Nathan says:

      I think you’re right about the groups, and The Ogre Downstairs did remind me more of Archer’s Goon than it did Jones’s more direct fantasies. It’s about magic being brought into the mundane world. Archer’s Goon had a lot more surprises in it, though.

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