The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones was finished by her sister Ursula Jones and tells the story of a young girl trying to help her country while discovering a whole lot of magic along the way. The Islands of Chaldea is actually the first Diana Wynne Jones book I’ve read, so I can’t tell you how it compares to those she wrote during her lifetime, but I found The Islands of Chaldea to have a few fun pieces with a whole lot of meh in between unfortunately. The plot wanders, the magic doesn’t make much sense, there is a mildly creepy romance thrown in and the writing definitely felt like two different people worked on it. I’m sure some children will still enjoy The Islands of Chaldea, but adults who enjoy middle grade fantasy might end up disappointed with The Islands of Chaldea.
Note: I received an advanced copy of The Islands of Chaldea from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.
The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula Jones
Published by Greenwillow on April 22nd, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, MG
Page Length: 368 pages
How I got my copy: Edelweiss
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Aileen comes from a long line of magic makers, and her Aunt Beck is the most powerful magician on Skarr. But Aileen's magic has yet to reveal itself, even though she is old enough and it should have, by now. When Aileen is sent over the sea on a mission for the King, she worries that she'll be useless and in the way. A powerful (but mostly invisible) cat changes all of that-and with every obstacle Aileen faces, she becomes stronger and more confident, until her magic blooms.
- The main character Aileen is pretty adorable and spunky, so seeing the world from her perspective was enjoyable. This became even more true when she befriends a mystical cat, names him Plug-Ugly, and sometimes tells him amusing bits of dialogue.
- The world in The Islands of Chaldea is limited to four islands in a country called Chaldea, but the islands have distinctly different and interesting cultures and I would love to learn more about them. The magic also had promise as The Islands of Chaldea opened with Aileen waiting out the night in a whole to pass her initiation to become a Wise Woman like her Aunt Beck.
- Especially at the beginning, The Islands of Chaldea is full of the quirky and cute elements that I look for in my middle grade stories. The dialogue is charming, the plot starts out on an intriguing foot, and there is a nice mix of friends that come along on Aileen’s adventure.
- Unfortunately, the plot of The Islands of Chaldea quickly becomes convenient to the point of laziness (apparently royalty is required to provide money to all who ask, so as soon as Aileen runs out, she stumbles upon another royal who gives her a purse of coins…) and meanders to all the islands rather strangely.
- The writing goes downhill as The Islands of Chaldea continues, feeling choppy and even difficult to follow at times. Of course this was an ARC I was reading, but it seemed to be a stylistic choice so it seems unlikely there will be much of a change in the final copy of The Islands of Chaldea.
- More and more secondary characters are introduced as The Islands of Chaldea continues, to the point that I had trouble remembering who everyone was and none of them are given any depth to tell them apart.
- The magic in The Islands of Chaldea is not expanded upon much, but it also has no consequences or difficulties once Aileen realizes she has power. She just goes off and performs very powerful magic without any difficulty, training, or cost. This kind of magic just bores me to tears.
- There are actually a couple of romances thrown around in The Islands of Chaldea and they are all pretty strange straight from the start. Aileen starts off in puppy love with a local nobleman’s son who actually seems like a complete jerk, then he falls for some other girl and Aileen kind of starts being interested in another of the secondary characters who show up and then we find out various adults who were tagging along used to be involved with other random new characters. If you can’t tell, there was way too much random romance in The Islands of Chaldea for me ;-).
The Islands of Chaldea started strong but faltered quickly and became nothing more than a cute middle grade fantasy that young children may find entertaining but that lacks anything all that interesting. I can see where there were good ideas in The Islands of Chaldea and just wish that they had been expanded better. I’m very curious to see how The Islands of Chaldea compares to Jones’ previous work now though.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones
© 2014, Anya. All rights reserved.