The DWJ Project: Warlock at the Wheel

Another short-story collection, and more successful than Stopping for a Spell — but that’s largely because it includes a few stories I think are better than anything in that collection; some of the others here are just as forgettable. In other words, the quality is very uneven.

“A Plague of Peacocks,” “The Fluffy Pink Toadstool,” and “Auntie Bea’s Day Out” all feel a lot like the pieces in Stopping for a Spell, being of the “person is unreasonably awful and then gets their comeuppance via magic” type that I really just don’t enjoy. I wasn’t much of a fan of “Carruthers” either, which feels much the same even though its structure is different, and “No One” was a less-than-confident foray into science fiction.

The three I liked better:

“Warlock at the Wheel” is (loosely) a Chrestomanci story, and benefits from that by having more plot momentum than the ones I mentioned above. After Charmed Life he goes on the lam, but very incompetently, and hijinks ensue. It isn’t up to the standards of her novels, and Jemima Jane is rather like the Izzies in The Merlin Conspiracy (by which I mean she sets my teeth on edge), but it did entertain me by confirming the speculation I made when I posted about The Homeward Bounders: Chrestomanci’s agent Kathusa has a Kathayack Demon Dog, which is either a hell of a naming coincidence or a direct pointer toward Joris’ Home world.

“Dragon Reserve, Home Eight” was the best of the lot for me. It sets up far more complete of a world than any of the others, and ditto characters; in fact, it almost feels like it’s connected to something else, but to the best of my knowledge that isn’t the case. (Please do mention in comments if I’m wrong.) I would definitely have read more about Siglin and the Dragonate and the Thrallers and the whole heg business.

“The Sage of Theare” is also good, and also a Chrestomanci story. It’s more conceptually complicated than “Dragon Reserve, Home Eight,” but less successful for me on a character and worldbuilding front (which is why I prefer the other). If it could have married its philosophical ideas about questioning and doubt and order and chaos to a firmer narrative framework, I would love it.

I think I’ll do the Dalemark Quartet next, but I’m still open for requests for things people would like to see me tackle sooner rather than later.

0 Responses to “The DWJ Project: Warlock at the Wheel”

  1. chomiji

    My favorite DWJ short story is “Nad and Dan and Quaffy,” which seems to have appeared in a couple of different collections by different publishers (Believing is Seeing for one, and Unexpected Magic for another).

    As for the novels: I don’t believe you’ve done Witch Week yet? Otherwise, you’ve covered all my favorites.

    • Marie Brennan

      I remember that one’s title, but not much about the story itself. It’s in one or more of the collections that I have, though, so I’ll definitely get to it.

      As for Witch Week, I’ll probably do all the Chrestomanci books (except for Lives, which I’ve already done) together at some point. I might put them ahead of Dalemark, though, as I do love them. 🙂

  2. fjm

    I read Dragon Reserve, Home Eight, in a collection edited by Jessica Yates. It took me years to realise it was a DWJ. It’s not quite like her other work. ON the whole I don’t think DWJ is a short story writer, but this is a genuine little masterpiece–quite terrifying at times.

    • Marie Brennan

      Yeah, the literal witch-hunt for people who are heg, and the way the Thrallers make people come toward them — pretty nasty stuff. I really would have liked to see more of it.

Comments are closed.