Chaldean Time in Motion

The Islands of Chaldea, by Diana Wynne and Ursula Jones – Diana was working on this book when she died, and left no notes as to how the plot would wrap up. Her sister Ursula finished it, and readers have been unable to tell where one Jones left off and the other started. We might not get the exact story Diana was going to tell, but we get a good one nonetheless. As with many of her books, this one deals with an alternate world with many similarities to our own, in this case a set of four islands resembling the British Isles. Skarr is known for its wise women, Bernica for its green fields and queen who turns people into donkeys, Gallis for its priests and scenery-controlling bards, and Logra for being cut off from the rest of the world by a magic barrier. Each island also has its own guardian animal, all of which are integrated into the plot. A magical disappearing cat and an oracular parrot both feature rather prominently. The pace to the story is rather leisurely, and even though there are some urgent matters going on, a lot of it is spent exploring the islands. When the underlying plot finally is revealed and wrapped up, it seems like a lot of information is dumped on the reader at once. This isn’t all that uncommon for Diana’s books, though, and there are always plenty of hints along the way. The central protagonist here is a girl named Aileen, niece of the Wise Woman Beck and an aspiring magic-worker herself. I found Beck to be remarkably similar to Granny Weatherwax from the Discworld series, having a large amount of magic power but usually just succeeding through sheer will and attitude. Beck, however, spends a large part of the book with a childlike mind, the Queen of Bernica’s donkey spell not being fully successful but still affecting her somewhat. It isn’t one of my favorites of Diana’s books, but I was quite glad to be able to visit her imaginary worlds one last time. Actually, I haven’t read all of her books, so it’s not really the last time for me, but it is in terms of when they were written. As such, it was a very bittersweet experience, despite the story itself having a happy ending.

This entry was posted in Authors, Diana Wynne Jones, Discworld, Terry Pratchett and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Chaldean Time in Motion

  1. Paul Dana says:

    Glad to see you’re a DWJ fan! I love some of her books, but I agree that her wrap-ups are often overstuffed, over-complicated, and confusing. Still, it’s almost always worth the ride.

  2. Pingback: Growing Up Magical | VoVatia

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