Friday, March 23, 2012

The essential wizarding school story (non-Potter category)

Review: The Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones
Grade: A
Why I picked it up: I've recently picked up a few Diana Wynne Jones books, continuing my earlier fascination with her - beginning when I saw Hayao Miyazaki's beautifully depicted Howl's Moving Castle.
'The Year of the Griffin' I had read and quoted from last year, but decided I could re-read a few chapters while the baby slept.
Why I finished it:
Super catchy storyline which brought to mind the fizz and excitement of the early Harry Potter "going to wizarding school" magic.

The Story:
A diverse group of students meet at magic university and unite under incompetent teachers. The Wizards' University is now decidedly short of funds, and the teachers are either obsessed with raising funds, going to the moon or training the students to avoid any real thinking.

From Goodreads: Comical tableaux involving spells that create deep pits and smelly winged monkeys alternate with suspenseful (yet always amusing) scenes involving tiny assassins who mean business. Jones's satirical pokes at academia, racial intolerance (the greenish and jinxed Claudia has mixed blood), and hierarchical societies (Ruskin is bucking the tyranny of the forgemasters to become the first dwarf wizard) keep the story lively, as do the realistic portrayals of her very odd and endearing cast of characters.

The Good:
She has two novels set in an imaginary world, Derkholm. The first novel, Dark Lord of Derkholm, is a recommended pre-read, though you can jump right into this one if you like (or if this is the book your library has).
The exciting bits are pretty fantastic, and so are the characters - a griffin, a marshwoman, a prince, another prince who has assassins after him, a pirate's daughter.. 
Who should read this? Fans of wizard schools, Harry Potter, Young Adult lit, School stories
“What have we got next? Wasn’t there a lecture or something?”
“I’ll see,” said Elda. She hooked a talon into the bag around her neck and whisked out a timetable, then reared on her hindquarters to consult it. It already had claw holes in all four corners. “A class,” she said. “Foundation Spellcasting with Wizard Wermacht in the North Lab.”
“Where’s that?” Claudia inquired shyly.             “And have we time for coffee first?” Olga asked.

Other books by her reviewed:
Cart and Cwidder

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  1. I love this series. :) There seem to be relatively few Fantasy books where creatures other than dragons speak.

  2. Hi there! I wanted to stop by after your comment this week.
    We welcomed a YA reviewer, Willow, and she'll be posting in the next few days. I wonder if she's seen this series? I'll have to recommend it to her.

    Great to see you! Happy Reading. - MoĆ­ra ♣

  3. Sounds like a series of books Niece #2 would enjoy. I'm with the Golden Eagle in that it's good to know other mythical creatures have a voice.

  4. @Moira - I'm reading your posts now :)

    @Petty - You can count on DWJ to have creative fireworks in all her books..

  5. Lovely review! I love all of the little enhancements. And the book sounds good too.


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