Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Islands of Chaldea

The Islands of Chaldea
by Diana Wynne Jones, completed by Ursula Jones
HarperCollins, 2014.  356 pages.  Fantasy

     Diana Wynne Jones died three years ago, leaving The Islands of Chaldea unfinished, and not leaving any outline or notes as to how the book should conclude.  But her sister Ursula took up the challenge and completed the book to make a fine, last story in the Jones' canon.  Aileen lives with her Aunt Beck, the greatest magicworker in the land of Skarr.  Aileen is expected to follow in her aunt's footsteps, but when she has her first initiation experience, she thinks nothing happens, and she thinks she's a failure.  But soon she and Aunt Beck are summoned by the High King to go on a quest to penetrate the veil that has fallen over the Chaldean island of Logra where Aileen's father disappeared years ago.  The expedition leaves with much fanfare but before long Aunt Beck runs afoul of a truly disagreeable sorceress and has her brains addled to the point that Aileen has to become the party's magicworker and defacto leader.  With the help of an unusually wise parrot, and an often-invisible cat, she greatly exceeds her own expectations, unmasks the mysteries of Logra, and discovers the charms of a previously annoying young man. Ursula Jones has done a fine job of finishing her sister's last novel (alas!) and youngsters should enjoy Aileen's journey and her discovery of her better self.

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