The Game, by Diana Wynne Jones

There’s nobody quite like English fantasy writer Diana Wynne Jones. Her novels feature bizarre subject matter, but she writes with such relaxed assurance that her worlds instantly feel familiar. She’s not interested in heroic wand waving or preening arch-villains. Instead, the conflicts in her books frequently hinge on family feuds... although the families in question do tend to have some very unusual powers.

Jones’ most recent book, The Game, is a condensed but delightful example of her style. Hayley, Jones’ heroine, lives a dull, secluded life in London with her strict, chilly grandmother and enigmatic grandfather. When Hayley inadvertently upsets her grandmother, she is shipped off in disgrace to stay with relatives in Ireland. Soon after her arrival, her newfound cousins introduce her to their favorite game: sneaking into the “mythosphere”, an astonishing realm made up out of legends, myths, and fairytales.

The Game is less than two hundred pages long, but that’s plenty of space for Jones to display her imagination, sly sense of humor, and comprehensive grasp of Greco-Roman mythology. (In an amusing, throwaway mythosphere scene, Hayley glimpses a young woman holding out her hand to a very large swan and is immediately hustled along by her older, better read companion.) Despite their all-too-human squabbling and family politics, it soon becomes clear that Hayley and her family aren’t ordinary people, and readers will begin to link the characters with their mythological counterparts.

Jones’ novella ends with a brief explanatory note devoted to some of the more obscure characters. (I thought I was fairly familiar with Greco-Roman mythology, but the descriptions of the Pleiades and the Hesperides were very helpful.) Like all of Jones’ books, The Game is intelligent, entertaining, and—considering that it’s a story full of gods and monsters—remarkably intimate in scope.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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