In the surge of fantasy books being reprinted, the formerly unavailable works of Diana Wynne-Jones are becoming available. "Eight Days of Luke" is a delight for fantasy and mythology buffs alike.
David dreads coming home for vacation. As his parents are dead, he lives with his horrible relatives: Uncle Bernard, Aunt Dot, Cousin Ronald and his wife Astrid, and the sinister housekeeper, all of whom insist that he be grateful to them. They tell him what to wear, how to speak, what to do, constantly talk about what a burden and a pain he is, and spend the rest of the time listening to Astrid and Bernard compare imaginary ailments.
While out doing yardwork, David utters a gibberish curse -- only to have a nearby wall erupt in a shower of snakes. Another boy named Luke appears, and offers to help David. Why? He says that David freed him, and David goes along with this. Luke charms David's nasty family, and as a result Astrid slowly begins to befriend David.
But Luke quickly displays that he can be dangerous as well as helpful. And he is strangely wary of the new people in the neighborhood: the Frys, one-eyed Mr. Wedding, and sinister gardener Mr. Chew. He claims that he was framed for something he didn't do -- but how is David going to help him?
Perhaps the only drawback of this book is that you need some basic knowledge of Norse mythology to know who people like the Frys, Mr. Wedding and Luke are; those who are not familiar with the myths may be hopelessly lost. So brush up on the basics before reading. As for the finale -- well, you'll definitely need to know about Norse myths. Jones doesn't tell us too much, but she doesn't tell us a lot either. The three old women will be recognizable easily, though: Similar characters have been featured in many other works of fantasy.
David is a completely realistic young boy, and I was pleased to see the "conversion" of one of his annoying relatives. Luke manages to be sympathetic and interesting despite the fact that he's a little amoral and has a perilous sense of fun. I was also glad that the "nasty relatives" didn't fall into the Roald Dahl/Harry Potter trap of being cartoonishly bad. They're bad because they are rigid and disdainful -- nasty in ways that are almost hilariously realistic. (The scene where David keeps score as Astrid and Bernard compare psychosomatic problems is a hoot!)
Soon to be reprinted, this is a lesser-known gem that is often overshadowed by Jones's other more popular works. Though shorter than many of her other books, this is a great read for adults and kids alike..