Friday, August 6, 2010

The Game by Diana Wynne Jones, a book review

The Game is one of Wynne Jones shorter, lighter books; enjoyable, and, in a roundabout way, revisiting some of the ideas in Eight Days of Luke, one of my favorite DWJ's.

It starts out with Hayley leaving the strict guardianship of her grandparents and heading off to meet a bewildering number of new cousins, aunts, and uncles in Ireland. Once there, she begins to relax after years of stern discipline and to enjoy playing games--including The Game, where she and her cousins all leave the ordinary earth and travel to the mythosphere. There, they meet gods, goddesses, and creatures of myth, sometimes in lighter form, sometimes in darker, more dangerous forms--the mythosphere seems to be in layers, with ordinary earth life at one level, fairy tales up at another, and the myths at yet another level, overlapping versions of the same tale happening at once.

Then she discovers that her uncle, who never has liked her, is angry that she's visited the Irish cousins and will be even more angry if he learns she's visited the mythosphere, and that, not so incidentally, he's really Jupiter, king of the gods, and if she doesn't stop him, she'll be in big trouble--Sisyphus-type trouble.

Drawback: The end of the book was a perfectly good fairy-tale ending, but somehow a bit of a letdown all the same. After all the buildup, it was a bit too easy to get rid of Uncle Jupiter.

Also, while I liked the idea of the mythosphere, though I can't quite wrap my mind around the way it works in a practical sort of way. How are all these individual people simultaneously present in all the levels?

The parts I liked best really were the human-sized parts; as with Eight Days of Luke, I enjoyed seeing what the gods and heroes looked like when they were being ordinary people, and spotting the ways their unique god-aspects showed up in human form. Baba Yaga was especially welcome, particularly her surprise when Hayley was glad to see her. The exception to the "mundane parts were best" rule is Hayley herself: I loved the bit where she discovers she is/can be a comet.

Stained Glass Alert: The shed in back of the cousins' house has old stained glass that makes the world look weird and wonderful. It doesn't play any role in the book, but Enchanted Glass and Deep Secrets have me on the alert.

For another review, see Charlotte's Library.


  1. Aha! That settles it: Diana Wynne Jones has that glass. Or given Maree's frustration over it in Deep Secret, probably she's seen that glass, and the people who have got it don't appreciate it. :)

  2. She keeps sticking copies of it in woodsheds, though. Do British people really put stained glass windows in backyard garden sheds?