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This review is from: The Merlin Conspiracy (Paperback)
I'm a big fan of Diana Wynne Jones, so I'm maybe being a little tough on this review because I have high expectations.
I grew up reading the Chrestomanci books, and now I have boys of my own, I was really keen for them to read her books, and I got this one for them after the aforementioned series.
The plot of the book is fine, a good fantasy romp (although I agree with the reviewer who said it seemed to stop rather suddenly), but the characterisations are awful! The plot centres around three children, and is voiced by a boy called Nick and a girl called Ariadne (although she prefers to be called a boy's name- "Roddy".
The surrounding cast are made up of divorced couples and single mums. In each of the divorced couples, the woman is absolutely horrific/evil/mad, and the men are noble and long suffering. "Roddy" voices multiple times that she doesn't understand how "insert any male character's name" could have possibly ended up with nasty "insert female characters name". The male characters are completely faultless, so much so that the one who abandoned his son, only did so because the mother was so unbearable.
Now don't get me wrong, I like a truly wicked, deliciously over the top villain, whoever they are, but when the same pattern was repeated over again and again as each new character was introduced, I started to get really uncomfortable.
There certainly seems to be a lot of vitriol in this book, and I actually think that this would be quite a toxic book for children of separated parents, as it re-iterates multiple times that divorce happens because one person is "bad". I know DWJ had 3 sons, I wonder if one was going through a particularly acrimonious divorce at the time of writing!
When I finished the book, it left a really nasty taste in my mouth, and I wouldn't recommend it because of the unpleasant messages it contains.