Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones
Born 16 August 1934(1934-08-16)
London, England
Died 26 March 2011(2011-03-26) (aged 76)
Bristol, England
Occupation Novelist
Genres Fantasy
Notable work(s) The Chrestomanci Series


Diana Wynne Jones (16 August 1934 – 26 March 2011)[1] was a British writer, principally of fantasy novels for children and adults, as well as a small amount of non-fiction. Some of her better-known works include the Chrestomanci series and the novels Howl's Moving Castle and Dark Lord of Derkholm.


Early life and marriage

Jones was born in London, the daughter of Marjorie (née Jackson) and Richard Aneurin Jones, both of whom were educators.[citation needed] When war was announced, shortly after her fifth birthday, she was evacuated to Wales, and thereafter moved several times, including periods in Coniston Water, York, and back in London. In 1943 her family finally settled in Thaxted, Essex, where her parents worked running an educational conference centre. There, Jones and her two younger sisters Isobel (later Professor Isobel Armstrong, the literary critic) and Ursula spent a neglected childhood in which they were left chiefly to their own devices. After attending the Friends School Saffron Walden, she studied English at St Anne's College in Oxford, where she attended lectures by both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien before graduating in 1956. In the same year she married John Burrow, a scholar of medieval literature, with whom she had three sons, Richard, Michael and Colin. After a brief period in London, in 1957 the couple returned to Oxford, where they stayed until moving to Bristol in 1976.[citation needed]

According to her autobiography, Jones decided she was an atheist when she was a child.[2]


Jones' books range from amusing slapstick situations to sharp social observation, to witty parody of literary forms. Foremost amongst the latter are her Tough Guide to Fantasyland, and its fictional companion-pieces Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998) and Year of the Griffin (2000), which provide a merciless (though not unaffectionate) critique of formulaic sword-and-sorcery epics.[citation needed]

The Harry Potter books are frequently compared to the works of Diana Wynne Jones. Many of her earlier children's books were out of print in recent years, but have now been re-issued for the young audience whose interest in fantasy and reading was spurred by Harry Potter.[3][4]

Jones' works are also compared to those of Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman. She was friends with both McKinley[5] and Gaiman, and Jones and Gaiman are both fans of each others' work; she dedicated her novel Hexwood to him after something he said in a conversation that inspired a key part of the plot.[6] Gaiman had already dedicated his 1991 four-part comic book mini-series The Books of Magic to "four witches", of whom Jones was one.[7]

Charmed Life, the first book in the Chrestomanci series, won the 1977 Guardian Award for Children’s Books. Jones was runner-up for the Children’s Book Award in 1981, and was twice runner-up for the Carnegie Medal. In 1999, she won two major fantasy awards: the children’s section of the Mythopoeic Awards in the USA, and the Karl Edward Wagner Award in the UK, which is awarded by the British Fantasy Society to individuals or organisations who have made a significant impact on fantasy.[citation needed]

Her book Howl's Moving Castle was adapted as a Japanese animated movie in 2004, by filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. A version dubbed into English was released in the United Kingdom and USA in 2005, with the voice of Howl performed by Christian Bale. Archer's Goon was adapted for television in 1992.[citation needed]

Her non-fiction work on clichés in fantasy fiction, The Tough Guide To Fantasyland, has a cult following among writers and critics, despite being difficult to find due to an erratic printing history. It was recently reissued in the UK, and has been reissued in the USA in 2006 by Firebird Books. The Firebird edition has additional material and a completely new design, including a new map.[citation needed]

In July 2006 she was awarded an honorary D.Litt from the University of Bristol.[8] She received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2007.[9]

Shortly after her death, it was reported that Earwig and the Witch and a collection of Jones' articles will be published later in 2011.[10]

Illness and death

Jones was diagnosed with lung cancer in the early summer of 2009.[11] She underwent surgery in July and reported to friends that the procedure had been successful.[12] However, in June 2010 she announced that she would be discontinuing chemotherapy because it only made her feel ill. In mid-2010 she was halfway through a new book with plans for another to follow.[13] She died on 26 March 2011 from the disease.[1] She was survived by her husband, three sons, and five grandchildren.



Chrestomanci series

In order of release:

  1. Charmed Life (1977) Carnegie Medal, Commended; Guardian Award; Preis der Leseratten (ZDF Schülerexpress, Germany)
  2. The Magicians of Caprona (1980)
  3. Witch Week (1982) (separate from other books in series, but set in same era as The Magicians of Caprona - The Pinhoe Egg - Charmed Life, and containing the Chrestomanci as a major character)
  4. The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988) Carnegie Medal, Commended
  5. Mixed Magics (2000) (short stories of varying internal dates)
  6. Stealer of Souls (2002) (published for World Book Day 2002) - this story was previously published in Mixed Magics
  7. Conrad's Fate (2005)
  8. The Pinhoe Egg (2006) Mythopoeic Awards for children's literature, nominated; Locus Awards for young adult book, nominated
Reading order

Diana Wynne Jones herself, however, recommended reading the books in this order:[citation needed]

  1. Charmed Life (1977)
  2. The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988)
  3. Conrad's Fate (2005)
  4. Witch Week (1982)
  5. The Magicians of Caprona (1980)

The short stories can be read in any order after that.

  • In chronology The Pinhoe Egg is set soon after a short story in Mixed Magics which follows on from "The Magicians of Caprona".
Chronicles of Chrestomanci

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci series are set in three volumes:

  • Volume 1 contains Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant.
  • Volume 2 contains Witch Week and The Magicians of Caprona.
  • Volume 3 contains Conrad's Fate and The Pinhoe Egg.

Derkholm series

  1. Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998) Mythopoeic Fantasy Award See also Jones' remarks on winning the award
  2. Year of the Griffin (2000)

Dalemark Quartet

In order of internal chronology:

  1. The Spellcoats (1979)
  2. Cart and Cwidder (1975)
  3. Drowned Ammet (1977)
  4. Crown of Dalemark (1993)

However, when the books were published by Oxford University Press, they were numbered in the order in which they were published (Cart, Drowned Ammet, Spellcoats, Crown) and it is possible to read them in this order without any spoilers.

Castle series

  1. Howl's Moving Castle (1986) Honor book for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, 2004 Hayao Miyazaki movie nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature
  2. Castle in the Air (1990) Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, nominated
  3. House of Many Ways (2008)

Magids series



  • Warlock at the Wheel and Other Stories (1981) (contains two Chrestomanci stories, both also in Mixed Magics)
  • Stopping for a Spell (1993)
  • Everard's Ride (1994)
  • Minor Arcana (1996) British Fantasy Award, nominated
  • Believing is Seeing (1999) (similar to Minor Arcana)
  • Unexpected Magic (2002)


  • Hidden Turnings (editor) (1989)
  • Fantasy Stories (editor) (1994)
  • Spellbound (editor) (1995)

Short stories

  • "Chair Person", "The Four Grannies" and "Who Got Rid of Angus Flint?" in Stopping for a Spell
  • "Little Dot" in Firebirds
  • "I'll Give You My Word" in Firebirds Rising
  • "JoBoy" in The Dragon Book
  • "Samantha's Diary" in Stories

Non-fiction and poetry

Books about Jones

  • Rosenberg (ed.), Teya, et al. (2002). Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom. Peter Lang. ISBN 0-820-45687-X. 
  • Mendlesohn, Farah (2005). Diana Wynne Jones: Children's Literature and the Fantastic Tradition. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-97023-7. 
  • Butler, Charles (2006). Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children's Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-810-85242-X. 


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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