Power Of Three Paperback – Nov 29 2001
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"...Her hallmarks include laugh-aloud humour, plenty of magic and imaginative array of alternate worlds. Yet, at the same time, a great seriousness is present in all of her novels, a sense of urgency that links Jones's most outrageous plots to her readers' hopes and fears..." Publishers Weekly
About the Author
DIANA WYNNE JONES was born in August 1934 in London, where she had a chaotic and unsettled childhood against the background of World War II. The family moved around a lot, finally settling in rural Essex. As children, Diana and her two sisters were deprived of a good, steady supply of books by a father, ‘who could beat Scrooge in a meanness contest’. So, armed with a vivid imagination and an insatiable quest for good books to read, she decided that she would have to write them herself.
She was extremely dyslexic, so when she told her parents she wanted to be a writer, they just laughed. However between ages of 12 and 14, the young writer completed two epic tales scrawled in a total of 20 copy books. This taught her from an early age the invaluable lesson of how to finish a book.
Her higher education began in 1953 when she went up to St Anne’s College Oxford, and attended lectures by CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein. It was here she met her husband, John A Burrow, who is Professor of English at Bristol University. They married in 1956 and have three sons.
She has written both children’s books and plays (mostly performed at the London Arts Theatre) and her first book was published in 1973. Since then she has written over 40 books. Her enviably fertile mind has allowed her to write prolifically, even when her three boys were small, and quite a handful! When writing, she is totally absorbed in the book and on one never-to-be forgotten occasion, her sons returned from school ravenous to find she had shoved a pair of muddy shoes in the oven for their tea! She says, ‘I am an inspirational writer. I forget meals and write with ever-increasing speed.’
Diana Wynne Jones first conjured up the enigmatic and embroidered dressing-gowned enchanter Chrestomanci in 1977. The adventures in his magical worlds – for, as every budding sorcerer knows – there are many series of parallel worlds – continue to enthral readers all over the world.
‘Charmed Life’, the first book in the Chrestomanci series, won the 1977 Guardian Award for Children’s Books. Diana was runner-up for the Children’s Book Award in 1981, and was twice runner-up for the Carnegie Medal. In 1999, she won two major fantasy awards: the children’s section of the Mythopeic Award in the USA, and the Karl Edward Wagner Award in the UK – which is awarded by the British Fantasy Society to individuals or organisations who have made a significant impact on fantasy. JK Rowling was runner-up on both occasions.
Meeting Diana you wouldn’t be surprised to find she has second sight (though she hasn’t as far as I know). You’d think it quite natural that she should be a writer of fantasy, a connoisseur of witchcraft, a creator of parallel worlds. For her, magic isn’t something that floats about unrooted in human nature. ‘Things we are accustomed to regard as myth or fairy story are very much present in people’s lives.’ She says, ‘Nice people behave like wicked stepmothers. Every day.’
Top Customer Reviews
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The leader of the mound of Garholt has three children. Eldest Ayna has the Sight, and youngest Ceri has the Gift of Finding AND the Gift of Thought. The middle child, Gair, considers himself extremely ordinary, and tries to become wise and skilled to make up for his lack of extraordinary gifts. Gair isn't as ordinary as he had thought, but his secret talents lie hidden until a disaster falls.
Long ago, their uncle Orban killed a Dorig (a water-dwelling reptilian creature) for its golden collar, and the Dorig's brother laid a curse on everyone. Now the Dorig invade the mound when the chief is out on a hunt and the three kids manage to escape, taking refuge with the Giants (who are apparently ordinary human beings). They learn that they're running out of time -- the Moor will soon be turned into a lake, driving out the Giants and killing the Moung People and Dorig, unless they find a way to stop it.
"Power of Three" is in some ways a much darker book than many of Jones' others. There are more complex issues about morality and ethics. Not to mention the enviroment, and the question of what makes a person special. (Even before Gair's gift surfaces, he's considered special for his hunger for knowledge) There's murder, trickery, there are battles (not magical ones either), hostage situations and curses that affect entire populations.
Jones gives the Mound People a semi-Celtic flair; the story about how the kids' dad had to win their mom is reminiscent of old Irish legends. The shapeshifting, water-dwelling Dorig are suitably mysterious and alien. Jones fills her story with atmospheric wildlands, cozy British houses and plenty of vivid descriptions.
Gair is clearly the center of this book. He's a likable kid, quiet when his rotten cousin isn't taunting him, and more thoughtful than his siblings. Ayna and Ceri are also well-done. The biggest problem is probably Gerald and Brenda. While Jones does a passable job with these two, it takes awhile to warm up to them because we don't get a lot of insight into their thoughts.
"Power of Three" is a fast-paced, well-written fantasy adventure, full of strange and mysterious creatures (and a few who are all too familiar). Like just about all of Jones' works, a treat.
In many of Diana's books, she works by creating a difficult situation and then piling unexpected situations, images and twists on top. Usually, you wonder "what more could possibly go wrong" and then something else does--to humorous effect. By the end, you find you've come out the other side and chaos has somehow turned into order--much like a Shakespearean comedy such as "A Midsummer Night's Dream" or "Comedy of Errors."
If most of Diana's books are comedies, Power of Three is more like a tragedy. From the moment at the first of the book when an innocent Dorig (sort of a water sprite) is killed, a curse is laid, and revenge is sworn, you know that "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."
Diana uses intricate plotting to move the story towards the expected climax. Even with happy events, the reader knows that something else lurks behind. The plot works in a unified way to forward the story towards its climax. Each event is exactly right for propelling the story towards its end.
The book deals nicely with issues of trust between people, understanding between parent and child, and the effect a small minority can have for good or evil.
This is a darker book than many by this author (though it works out nicely in the end), so you may want to try something else if you're looking mostly for free-spirited fun. It's moodier, more "realistic," has less whimsey, and more suspense than you'd expect.
Overall, a very well-crafted book that is something different for the author. I recommend it highly, but you may want to adjust your expectations of Diana Wynne Jones before reading it.
Set on moorlands inhabited by Giants, reptilian Dorig and tribes of warrior-like clans, the first two chapters introduces the rest of the story to come. First, Adara and her bullish brother Orban come across a young Dorig princeling, and Orban demands the beautiful collar around its neck. Refusing, the Dorig places a deep curse upon the collar that will bestow bad luck upon the holder and the surroundings.
Chapter two takes place several years later when Adara elopes with the chief of a neighbouring Mound. This reads like a Celtic legend as the hero Gest must perform three impossible tasks concerning riddles, collars, standing stones, Dorig and Giants, and exactly how he manages to accomplish these feats is a mystery that (like the influence of the curse) is explored more deeply in the rest of the book that skips onto the next generation.
Gest and Adara's three children are Ayna, Gair and Ceri. Ayna the eldest can answer any question posed toward her, whilst Ceri can not only find anything that is lost but manipulate matter with his mind. Gair however is devastatingly normal, and so considers himself a disappointment to his entire community. But with the evil of the curse winding its way into all aspects of life (including food supply, war with the Dorig, and an unwelcome invasion of relatives into their Mound), Gair finally reaches breaking point and heads for the countryside. Tailed by Ayna and Ceri, the three siblings find adventures with both Dorig and Giants waiting for them, and realisation that the Moor itself is in danger of destruction.
In terms of theme and plot, "Power of Three" may very well be the deepest and most complicated novel for young readers that DWJ has written. Exploring the definition of humanity, the worth of the individual and the necessity for peace at its core, the book also has plenty of humour, quirky characters and intricate subplots - far too many to properly explain in a simple review. But it is worth saying that this book in particular has a range of interesting and vivid characters - from saintly Adara, woebegone Gerald, bossy Brenda, spoilt Ceri, sage-like Ayna and the odious Ondo. But the spotlight mostly falls on Gair, and he is a protagonist that most will find very easy to relate to - melancholy and serious, but determined and intelligent, and altogether a likeable guy.
The author also makes some wonderful connections between characters - the siblings in particular are warm and affectionate (most of the time) and the friendships that Gair forges within the story are also realistic and enjoyable to read. But then again, DWJ is an expert at portraying human behaviour and it should come as no surprise to any familiar readers that such things are handled just as well here.
"Power of Three" definitely has my recommendation, though I should warn you about reading other reviews on the story, as some of them give away the big twist - something that shouldn't be revealed if you want to truly revel in DWJ's genius.