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Diana Wynne Jones reading notes: Hexwood

hexwoodHexwood is a standalone novel, first published in 1993. It’s also a book that I love and I feel like no one else does? If you’re a fellow Hexwood fan, let me know!

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 atΒ  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

By Maureen LaFerney

My name is Maureen. I currently work as a library assistant in a public library in the Indianapolis area, and also just so happen to be a voracious reader. I frequently end up under a cat.

15 replies on “Diana Wynne Jones reading notes: Hexwood”

I do like Hexwood! It’s not quite in my top tier but I enjoyed it a lot. I found it got better on rereading when I wasn’t totally disoriented.

Yes, I read it as at least a young adult, which I’m sure made a difference!

That’s interesting – I’ve seen more negative reactions to Fire and Hemlock than to Hexwood, so I had the impression that Hexwood was more universally liked if perhaps less well known. (I think F&H lulls some readers into believing that they’re reading a more straightforward story than they actually are, so the ending comes as an unwelcome shock, whereas Hexwood is more obviously weird – and yet more straightforward in regards to where the end of the story leaves all the characters.)

Hexwood is one of my favourites. I love the characters, and the way the story tangles around itself, and the way I notice different things each time I read it – there’s something very satisfying about that.

Deepest apologies–your comment got stuck in the spam filter for some reason! I definitely see your point about F&H, and yet there’s all the tricksy stuff at the beginning? I don’t know (but I do love both books!)

the way the story tangles around itself
That’s a really nice way of putting it.

Another fan here. I too think it improves upon re-reading – one catches so much more. I find that the elliptical way DWJ wrote about emotions really shines in this one. I mean, how much did we know about most of the characters? And yet we care so deeply. Even about the ones who die before the book starts… (whimper). But yes, I am proudly in the community of those who have major Hexwood feels. Though I usually have a really hard time getting others to read it.

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