Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones

The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones is a last, unlooked-for book from one of my favorite authors, completed by her sister Ursula Jones after her death.

Aileen lives with her Aunt Beck, the Wise Woman of Skarr. Some day, Aileen will be a Wise Woman, too, but at the moment she's feeling pretty dubious about that, since she just failed her Initiation. But she must put her self-doubt aside when she and her Aunt Beck are summoned by the king -- and not just the king of Skarr, but the High King over all of the islands of Chaldea. Years ago, the neighboring island kingdom of Logra cast a powerful curse that created a barrier to prevent anyone from traveling from the islands of Chaldea to Logra. Since the Chaldean islands depend on trade with Logra, this has had a dreadful impact on the economy. Worse, the Lograns have the son of the High King as a captive Now a prophecy has come to light, saying that a Wise Woman of Skarr must travel to Logra by way of the other islands, accompanied by a man from each island, and thence enter Logra. Aunt Beck sets little store by this prophecy, but the High King insists, so Beck and Aileen set out, accompanied by Prince Ivar of Skarr and his servant Ogo. Along the way, they are joined by a magical cat, a prophetic parrot, a monk, a lizard, and some of Aileen's distant relatives on her father's side. The journey is arduous, but it will be worth it if they can break the curse. Of course, when they get to Logra, they discover that nothing is as straightforward as it originally seemed, and Aileen will have a more significant role to play than she ever expected.

What can I say? It's a new Diana Wynne Jones when I thought there would never be another new Diana Wynne Jones, and I honestly can't tell where DWJ's manuscript left off and Ursula Jones' writing begins. Fellow fans of DWJ's quirky brand of fantasy should be sure to pick this one up.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

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