Friday, July 29, 2011

Power of Three

I'm still reeling from the news of Diana Wynne Jones's death back in March.  It's a powerful relationship we readers have to our favorite writers, through their books.  Even though I've never met her, I've been reading her books since I picked up a library copy of Dogsbody when I was ten or eleven years old, and they have never failed to enlighten, entertain, surprise, and stretch my mind in some interesting directions. 

I haven't read Power of Three in so long that, happily, it was like getting to read a new book.  I must have read it back in the 70s, because there was a sense of familiarity to some of the elements, but mainly, it was like reading it fresh from the start.  And what a delightful reread it was.

The book is layers wrapped in layers, and there is periodically an unwrapping of one of the layers that comes with a revelation, and each revelation takes the book to a new level.  We start with the story of the curse that sets the entire chain of events in motion.  Then the story moves to the present, and we see how that curse has affected the characters introduced in the initial story, with a particular focus on the children of Adara, who is featured in the first section.  She has three children, two of whom have special abilities or Gifts, and one, Gair, who thinks he's ordinary (but of course the reader knows better!).  Gair and his siblings are one of three races that exist in their world.  The other two are Giants, who have amazing magical machines, and the Dorig, who can change shapes effortlessly.  These races fear and distrust each other intensely, particularly Gair's people and the Dorig, and there are often violent incidents among them.

The effects of the curse involve an upheaval in the lives of Gair and his brother and sister, which sends them out into the world, where they confront Giants as well as Dorig, with results that are surprising and astonishing.  The story took a little while to get going because the setup is crucial, but once it gained momentum I could not put it down.  I hesitate to say much more, because as with all of Diana Wynne Jones's books, they are best read with few preconceptions, and this one in particular is especially twisty and turny and surprising.  I prefer the above cover to the one below, which was on my library copy, because I think it coveys the atmosphere of the novel much more effectively.  This is a standalone book, so it's a great one to start with if you haven't read her books before.  Highly recommended!


Reviews of other books by DWJ:
Charmed Life
Dark Lord of Derkholm

Deep Secret
Enchanted Glass
House of Many Ways
The Game
The Merlin Conspiracy
The Pinhoe Egg
Witch Week
Year of the Griffin 


Power of Three by Diana Wynne Jones (HarperCollins, 1976)

Also reviewed at:
Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog:  "It’s lovely and it’s got funny bits in it (and some drama/tragedy) and adventure and action and broody heroes and strong females and it’s WONDERFUL."
Jenny's Books:  "...one of the very few books by Diana Wynne Jones that I truly loved the first time I read it."

7 comments:

  1. I agree about the covers! I have the second cover, and while I don't hate it, I think the one you show at the top is much more like the book. But I've rarely seen a DWJ cover that I absolutely adored -- her books seem to defy the use of good cover art, somehow.

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  2. DWJ is one of those authors I always check out when I am in a store but I have never, ever read anything from. I think I am overwhelmed by all the books and never know where to start.

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  3. Jenny - I agree! I think that her book are so hard to define that it must be rough for artists to try to design the covers. I wonder if most cover artists actually take the time to read the entire book.

    Cat - I do think you'll enjoy her books. There are a lot of them, but many of them are standalones. I enjoyed The House of Many Ways, which is fairly recent. You might also like Dogsbody, which I read ages ago and have been meaning to reread.

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  4. Hi Darla! I sort of fizzled out on Diana Wynne Jones... I must get back to her!

    Do you still want to read The Woman in White for the R.I.P. Challenge?

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  5. I need to give this book another try. It was one of the few DWJs I read as a kid, and I ... was kind of meh on it. Maybe just not the right thing at the right time. I'll bet I'd like it better now.

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  6. Kailana - Sure - I've been meaning to give that one a reread for ages. Sounds good to me!

    Kiirstin - It's not my favorite of her books (although I very much enjoyed it), but it looks like many people count it among their favorites. I love the Chrestomanci books, particularly The Pinhoe Egg. This one is more of a straight fantasy tale, although it does have some of her fun quirkiness added to it.

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  7. I've read several by DWJ. My fav is Charmed Life. I would enjoy reading a few more. thanks for the reminder.

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