The DWJ Project: Unexpected Magic

Last of the collections, both in terms of my (totally random) reading order, and publication date. It’s also the largest, and contains a number of stories not found in the others; on the other hand, it reprints a lot of the weakest stories from Warlock at the Wheel, and I have no idea why.

Things that are new:

“The Girl Jones” — non-fantasy story about a girl who ends up looking after a bunch of younger children, and screws it up in a way that ensures nobody will ask her to do that again. Not much to this one, and I’m really not sure why it was chosen to open the collection.

“The Green Stone” — sort of proto-Derkholm, from the perspective of the “recording cleric” for a Quest that’s about to begin. Unfortunately, because the cleric doesn’t know much about what’s going on, the plot kind of comes out of nowhere, and doesn’t get fleshed out very well.

“The Fat Wizard” — an iteration of the “unpleasant person gets their just desserts” trope. Better-written than most of the iterations in Warlock at the Wheel or Stopping for a Spell, but still not all that great, and (as the title suggests) it’s likely to bother people offended by her treatment of weight issues.

“Little Dot” — this, however, is fabulous. (And I don’t just say that because it involves cats.) I want, as I usually do, more background for the threat, but this story excellently displays one of Jones’ great talents, which is characterization. Henry’s six cats — sorry, let me correct that; the six cats that own Henry — all have highly vivid personalities, from the brave and resourceful Dot to the gorgeous and deeply stupid Madame Dalrymple. Watching them go to town on the woman who invades Henry’s house is a thing of horrifying beauty. 🙂

The main reason to own this book, though, is for Everard’s Ride, which was published by NESFA Press in 1995, but is almost impossible to find for a reasonable price.

The thing that fascinates me about it that to the best of my knowledge, it’s actually the earliest thing of Jones’ that has been published. Changeover came out in 1970, but the publication notes at the end of this collection say that Everard’s Ride was written in 1966. fjm said in the comments on Witch’s Business that her first couple of novels were meddled with by editorial influence, and reading this makes that quite apparent. Granted, I don’t know how much (if at all) Jones revised Everard’s Ride before its publication, but this feels far more like her style than her first couple of published fantasy novels do.

And there’s enough meat to it that I need a spoiler-cut.

I like that it gives fairly good shrift to its female characters (mostly Cecilia, but also Susannah), and that the Courcys get redeemed from “stock rich kids” territory by their response to finding out that the Hornby children have gone missing. I also like the process of Alex and Everard becoming friends with one another; I’ve never been a young boy, but it seemed pretty plausible to me, with the beating each other up and being really angry at each other and then ending up good friends. I do wish the denoument had continued to split its attention between Cecelia and Alex, though, rather than sticking with him, and therefore relegating her situation to last-minute exposition. Still, the characters and their relationships are definitely a strength here.

If I have an overall complaint, it’s that I wanted Falleyfell to be more fantastical. The early stuff leads us to expect it’s a land of faeries or ghosts or something along those lines, but once you get there, it appears to be almost completely mundane — just a mirror-realm of sorts, alongside the real world, but reachable only through special means. Robert’s first appearance had me craving more: some kind of Wild Hunt thing, instead of simple politics. (This was possibly not helped by the fact that my subconscious decided to connect the whole story of how Everard’s father was murdered to the “duel in the rose garden” thing from pameladean‘s Secret Country books, which added to the expectation of More Fantasy.)

Looking back over the collections, it turns out you can get almost all of her short fiction if you buy this and Mixed Magics. The stories in Stopping for a Spell aren’t worth it, Warlock at the Wheel and Believing Is Seeing are all duplicated in one or the other of these two, and Minor Arcana has only The True State of Affairs that isn’t included elsewhere. So if you want to be more efficient about this than I’ve been, that’s how to do it. <g>

(Me, what I really want is a leaner, meaner version of this book to go with Mixed Magics: something with “Dragon Reserve, Home Eight,” “Little Dot,” “Enna Hittims,” “What the Cat Told Me,” “The Girl Who Loved the Sun,” and then both Everard’s Ride and The True State of Affairs, if you want to go ahead and have it be a big collection. Maybe a couple more, like “Nad and Dan adn Quaffy,” that I’m not so fond of, but other readers are. Anyway, just her good work, and not the weaker stuff.)

Three books left: her first, her last, and the one that’s half-autobiography. And — crap, I meant to check this sooner — a couple of short stories NOT in the collections I discussed above. Ack! Must get those, stat!

0 Responses to “The DWJ Project: Unexpected Magic”

  1. fjm

    “The Girl Jones” is autobiographical, a true story.

    • Marie Brennan

      In retrospect, it would have been smarter for me to read the relevant nonfiction before the fiction, so I would know these things. 🙂

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