by Diana Wynne Jones
Greenwillow Books, 2010
This is one of Diana Wynne Jones' last novels to be published before she died, and her last full-length novel. It is a children's fantasy novel and is very much in line with her earlier works, although not part of any pre-existing series or world.
Andrew Hope is working as a professor in a nearby university when his grandfather dies, leaving him his house and estate. Andrew jumps at the chance to retire early, and plans to spend some time writing a scholarly book on history. However, there was a slight miscommunication; his grandfather didn't just leave his the house and grounds, but also his 'field of care', an area covering the nearby village and surrounding lands which requires special magical attention. Thankfully, this is an open secret, and concerned locals are quick to inform him that he must attend to his duties... but they don't actually know, to be quite honest, what these duties are or exactly how Andrew might go about finding out.
While this is going on, a young boy, Aidan Cain, shows up claiming that he is being pursued by sinister spirits. Rather than turn him into the police Andrew allows him to stay -- for now. It quickly becomes apparent that Aiden has some magical abilities of his own, and that he is fairly important to some of Andrew's mysterious enemies. It also becomes apparent that Andrew's grandfather was in some way opposed to the forces of Faerie, along with aiding with the comparatively minor issues of local werewolves and the like. Which still doesn't tell them what they are supposed to do about any of this.
This is a fast-moving and well-plotted book, and is reminiscent of some of Jones' earlier works, being very British, somewhat archaic at times, full of slowly revealed magics, and somewhat twisty. It is written for an older crowd than some of her recent books, perhaps being best for 11-15 year-olds. This is somewhat hard to judge; while the magical aspects are likely to be well-appreciated by 9-12 year olds and the secondary character, Aidan, is 12, the main character is in his 30's and notices things like his pretty secretary's legs and cleavage. There is a romantic element to the story, which is fairly clumsy and frequently falls into a hokey fairytale-like mode. While it is suitable for Tweens, it does not always read like it was written for them.
Overall, I would strongly recommend this to any Diana Wynne Jones fan, as it is exactly this sort of story that caused most of us became fans in the first place. On the other hand, I would probably recommend that new readers start with the Chrestomanci series, which is just as much fun but without the uneven approach to romance.
Accelerated Reader Level: 5.2