I can understand why people don’t necessarily like it. It’s a bit like the end of Fire & Hemlock, except an entire book’s worth–and quite a few people dislike the end of Fire & Hemlock. And the Reigners are really nasty, in an insidious way that is actually worse than out and out EEVILLLLL!
It’s also undeniably weird. I mean. In the space of one book, there’s a King Arthur motif, plus the events in the modern world, plus evil galactic overlords, plus handwavy science fantasy, plus dream sequences and some time travel, plus characters who don’t know who they are or what’s happening. There’s a lot going on. And most of the characters spend most of the book continuing to not know, caught in the middle of a situation they don’t even understand.
So why do I love it? Well, primarily it’s for Ann. I really love how stubborn and uncompromising she is, how she’s able to see the truth of people even when it’s fairly hidden. She’s not afraid to call people on their mistakes, but she also wants to help them, and she feels badly when things don’t go well. I also like Mordion; while he’s not my favorite version, characters who try really hard even when things are awful are kind of catnip for me.
And I found the descriptions of the wood really textured and lovely. DWJ tends to write in an understated style most of the time, so whenever she breaks into a more descriptive passage, I enjoy it. In this case, the sights and scents of the wood are so beautifully described that I could understand the characters’ reactions to it.
And secretly I love the end of Fire & Hemlock. I like the weird dream sequenceness of this story. It’s one that maybe shouldn’t work and maybe doesn’t work for many other readers, but which for some reason I find entrancing. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s not easy; that it requires you to work for meaning and comprehension.
If we’re looking at common themes in DWJ books, there’s certainly the warm but complicated family, the intergalactic evil (like Mr. Chesney’s company in Dark Lord, for instance). And perhaps most of all, the characters who aren’t as they seem and/or are hidden in some way, even from themselves.
So ultimately for me, this is one that I do appreciate and even enjoy, although at the same time, I do see why other people may have a different reaction to it.
Book source: public library
Book information: 1993, Methuen; YA