Review No.127 – The Islands of Chaldea

The Islands of Chaldea – Diana Wynne Jones (completed by Ursula Jones)

HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2014

For time out of mind the Wise Women of Skarr have been granted visions when they undergo initiation, but when twelve-year-old Aileen emerges unenlightened she takes it as confirmation she’ll never live up to her indomitable Aunt Beck. She’s given no time to dwell on her disappointment, however. As the only Wise Women left on Skarr, the two of them are summoned in secret and tasked with fulfilling a prophecy – to break down the magical barrier that cuts off the island of Logra from Skarr and its neighbours, and rescue the High King’s long-lost son. A task that would be much easier if the prophecy were not so hazy, Aileen’s companions not so incompetent, and someone was not trying so hard to see them fail…

This was the novel Diana Wynne Jones was working on at the time of her death and as such would have remained unpublished had her sister not finished writing it in her stead. It is to Ursula Jones’ credit that I couldn’t tell while reading where one author left off and the other started. Diana Wynne Jones was one of the greats of British fantasy – The Islands of Chaldea is not the best of her works but it contains the same eccentric magic and playful twists that made her work so irrepressibly fun. She will be much missed.

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