Monday, May 5, 2014

Review: The Islands of Chaldea

The Islands of Chaldea
By Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones
Published 2014 by Greenwillow Books

Aileen comes from a long line of powerful witches. Unfortunately, the magic seems to have skipped her. So, she's a bit perplexed as to why she's accompanying her Aunt Beck on a mission from the king to work some serious magic. As their travels continue, though, it becomes clear this mission is much more than meets the eye. And Aileen may just have the talents they need to succeed.

Bad Librarian confession time: this is the first Diana Wynne Jones book I've read. As I've mentioned before, I pretty much stopped reading fantasy during my formative years, so there's a lot of it that I've yet to go back and revisit. Diana Wynne Jones happens to be one of those authors. This is her final book, completed by her sister (also an author) after her death. I figured my time to read her was long overdue, so I snagged an ARC at ALA Midwinter and set to reading.

This is probably not relevant to anyone not reading this in ARC form but I was really annoyed at the packaging of this book. There was absolutely no blurb or plot description to be found anywhere on the ARC - not on the back cover or inside front cover or the first few pages. The back cover was devoted to the explanation of how the book came into being. So, essentially, I went into this book knowing nothing about the plot. I found that very frustrating.

But, since that probably won't impact readers of the book in finished form, let's move on. I found this to have a pretty slow start. It seemed like there was a bit more introductory information than was altogether necessary, and I didn't find myself caring too much about the book until the main journey was underway. Once the merry band of travelers begins their journey, however, things pick up pace and I found myself quite engaged in their story. I liked exploring the islands and the differences among the lands the characters visited. I think this probably points to at least one reason why Wynne Jones is a respected fantasy author - it's easy to get swept up in the worlds she creates.

I also quite enjoyed the many characters we meet in this story. Aileen was easy to root for, though she was a bit frustrating and stubborn at times (particularly with regards to Ivar, though it was quite clear early on how that storyline was going to play out). I liked all the other travelers as well, with Aunt Beck most likely being my favorite. I liked meeting more characters along the way and it never felt overwhelming or confusing, which I appreciated.

Though I think the ending was incredibly easy to see coming, I still found it a satisfactory resolution for the story. I'm definitely interested enough to check out some of her other titles. Any advice on where to start?

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.


  1. I'm so glad this book made you want to read more Diana Wynne Jones! I have read every single one of her books and they are wonderful. My suggestion would be for you to start with "Charmed Life." It's the first one I read and I think you would like it!
    I reviewed "The Islands of Chaldea" on my blog too, click here to view: Emerald City Book Review 

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! I'll have to check it out!