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July 12, 2003

Book review first, then, as it’s been a few days since I finished it.

The Merlin Conspiracy is a large book. A lot of books are, but even so it felt unusually large, since Diana Wynne Jones doesn’t usually write quite so long novels. It took a little while to get into it, too; the story is told in two parallel tracks and when the first shift from one track to the other happened I lost interest somewhat; as usual with DWJ’s books and me, though, I fell into the book after a while and it was very hard to let it go. There are the usual confused teenagers and odd grownups, as well as the completely idiosyncratic magic that is so much DWJ’s own — nobody else could get away with it — and a plot that doesn’t get in the way too much and manages never to feel contrieved in spite of the extraordinary things that keep happening. I like the parallel worlds theme, and this was a nice twist on it, too. What I still find difficult is to like or feel any kind of affinity or recognition (good or bad) for any of the characters. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t need to like or identify myself with any of the people in a book to be able to like it; still, it is nice to recognise something about the characters, to think you understand their motives in some way… but DWJ tends to write really strange people. In a lesser writer this would bother me more; as it is, I don’t even think about it, I’ve become so accustomed to it. And her characters are never dull or boring; like her language, they are interesting and unique. A very, very good book, plain and simple, which left me feeling thoroughly satisfied.

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